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Generated: Feb 08, 2019 5:43 PM
Post last updated: Apr 17, 2016 8:41 PM
I. Trials
a fateful meeting; Yvette and Ellie
Permalink Eye

A young woman sits on a seat thats synthetic cushioning is only nominally cushioning, wondering if it means anything in particular that the shuttle has no windows. She'd hoped there would be windows. Windows meant that she could edge her way to one to look out of it to try and get an overhead view of the Sith academy, try to commit its layout to memory. Saving time not getting lost seems like it'd be a minor thing, but she's pretty sure that really, she doesn't have much going for her in the Sith murder competition. Every scrap of an advantage she can get at she has to go for, so she can maybe not die.

But realistically? She's probably going to die. In fact, most people here were going to die, and they all know it. Or were deluding themselves by trying to pretend that it was all going to be okay, that the Sith will be nice. The ones that didn't fall to delusion were afraid, including her. But she had to say that she was handling it better than some. One in the corner had burst into tears twice already, and looked ready for round three, bonus snot edition. Another two were posturing, saying how they were going to be the best Sith, how the rest of them were going to die. Regaining some scraps of resolve stolen by fear by terrorizing the people around them. What a very Sith thing to do. They must be so proud.

Nariveth, for her part, sits quietly. She doesn't dare close her eyes and try to snatch a few moments of sleep, even though she hadn't had enough. She's far too nervous, far too surrounded by strangers that might want to kill her, far too afraid to show weakness when sometimes her neck still tingled like a shock collar sat on it and she had to behave or she'd be shocked until she couldn't think from the pain. And the terror. The terror came with the pain. But, sad as it might be, terror was just a fact of her life now. What if her master is upset with her, what if her master thinks she's pretty, what happens if she ostracizes herself from her peers and they start finding ways to make her suffer, what if Imperial Intelligence decides that she's on the wrong side of the statistics the next time they deem losses acceptable, what if, what if -

Well, she doesn't have a master now. And no matter the what if, it'll be more difficult to handle if she's running mindlessly in circles like a gizka that's lost its head. She can keep her composure, and then she can deal with it. Whatever happens.

The engine's hum quiets, and the entire shuttle shakes as it meets ground, and Nariveth steadies herself with a deep breath and stands. The landing ramp lowers, and a breath of hot, dry air rushes in.

Time to go.

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They were all told. When the shuttle lands, the doors will open, you will exit the shuttle quickly in an orderly fashion the overseers' time is valuable do not make them wait. This is your group number, find your group number and go through the marked door. The mass of prospective acolytes breaks into chunks as people find their group numbers and go to whatever fate awaits them. Nariveth's group contains five others, three human, one Gran, and one Twi'lek. Their overseer, a shortish bored-looking man is leaning against the opposite wall. He straightens up when they enter, and sneers when he sees the composition of the group.

"Finally. Took you scum long enough."

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Oh, wonderful, she's going to be fighting for her life against her peers, and she's going to get called names during it. That's exciting.

(If he's the yelly type she's going to be in a bit of trouble, she might not be able to keep herself from flinching. When her master - former master, she reminds herself - yelled, she sometimes flinched. Flinching doesn't seem recommended at the Sith academy.)

She thinks of a few things to say that would definitely get her shocked if she still had her collar on, but decides that staying silent is the best option. She takes the opportunity to try and get a better idea of the layout of the academy, and of what her peers are like. Anyone she recognizes from the shuttle?

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Three-eyes and head-tails she recognizes by appearance, there were not many non-humans on the shuttle, but they had both been quiet. One of the humans was a posturer. A large fellow, scarred and full of muscle. He looks just the sort who would actually fit here. There is an observation window that looks out on the valley below. Korriban is a desert world, and the valley is filled with dust and sand. There are scattered carvings along the cliff wall, and a dark opening flanked by two statues. On top of the cliff is a massive stone building that is probably the academy proper. The overseer is speaking again.

"I don't expect any of you louse-ridden vermin to last out the week. Now listen up, because I won't repeat myself. Each of you will take one of those bags," he points to a line of six rucksacks on the wall by the door, "and enter the tomb in the valley below. Your bag contains a note with the location of your training sword. Get the sword, then get to the academy. If you survive, which I doubt any of you pathetic slaves will, find me for your next trial. Now get moving!"

The overseer walks past the group and through the door they entered by. It shuts behind him, and the one leading to the valley opens. Posturer is the first to move, quickly grabbing the first bag and jogging out the door. The Gran follows close behind him, and then the rest.

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She'll let the rest of them do their - whatever it is they think they're doing. Nothing was said about time limits. She thinks she'd rather not test that too much, take it literally and go become a cave person, but that doesn't mean she absolutely must go right now into the tomb, without trying to get an understanding of the layout of the land and where her training saber might be, first. Besides, in a straight race against any of the other acolytes, she has the sneaking suspicion she'd just lose. Instead, she'll play to her strengths. Who knows what's in the tomb, and who knows what the other idiots will attract by making a huge racket. She'd rather not be in the middle of that while everything goes down and everyone's fighting for their lives.

And really, if all else fails and they die horribly, whatever killed them will be either busy eating them or slightly winded from chasing them down. Better odds for Nariveth sneaking past.

Where does her note say her training saber is, and what are the major, safe looking routes to the academy?

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Written on the note is Tomb of Ajunta Pall, second floor, third reliquary. There is a sketch of a doorway with an inscription above it. This is probably the door to the third reliquary, should she need help locating it. Also in the bag, she will find:

-one (1) hand-lamp, with powerpack
-two (2) ration bars of the type referred to as "dog chews"
-one (1) water bottle, filled
-one (1) thermal blanket
-zero (0) weapons

She can't see any obvious ways up to the academy from her current vantage point. No lifts, no stairs, just a formidable cliff face. As she looks, she will see the shuttle the acolytes arrived on fly overhead and set back down at the top of the cliff.

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No obvious way into the academy is bad. She would like to know exactly where to go. The ration bars, water, and thermal blanket are - well, she's glad they care about her welfare enough to give her food and water, she guesses, but it also means that she is going to be down there for a while, probably. Yay.

The lack of weapons is - maybe it means that nothing will try to kill her immediately, but she's not convinced. This is a Sith academy, they chew through volunteers quickly enough that they forcibly conscript slaves to become Sith. A career choice with the bonus of having a long lifespan, this is not.

She packs up all of her items in an organization manner that doesn't offend her sensibilities, and then into the tomb she goes, listening for sounds of combat.

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It is very quiet. And dark. She's going to have a hard time navigating without her light, but it could attract danger and the powerpack won't last forever.

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She'll give her eyes some time to adjust and navigate slowly while touching a wall to keep her bearings first, but if it's completely pitch black even after her eyes have adjusted, she'll switch to the light.

It occurs to her that this is a pretty good place to 'accidentally' kill a rival. That has to be on purpose.

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After ten minutes of moving carefully and stretching her senses, she can just about make out the outlines of the rooms, enough to walk without running into a wall, but she'll need a light for any detailed searching. There are multiple side chambers, filled with boxes and pots and sundry containers. She comes to a place where the hallway splits into three. There is a body lying in the middle. It's warm, hasn't been dead long.

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She leaves the pots and sundry containers for now, despite how curiosity niggles in the back of her mind about them. If they are actually filled with useful items, the ones here would have been looted already, and she doesn't want to risk the possibility of traps or someone catching her through her light.

And then she notices the body.

...

She should not be surprised. The death toll was obvious, going in. She'd written off her rivals (because she must think of them as rivals, now) as 'likely to die and likely to try to kill me to prevent from dying,' and has pretty thoroughly declined to make friends. Therefore, a corpse should not make her feel horrified and appalled and angry. This isn't surprising, this is just a thing that was likely to happen that did actually happen.

And yet: here she is, horrified and appalled and angry.

But the twisting feeling of horror in her stomach doesn't stop her from checking for a rucksack. Is there one? For that matter, can she make out which of her rivals is dead? Or is it someone she doesn't even know?

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It's one of the two undistinguished humans from her group. No rucksack. On closer inspection, she sees that their clothing is torn, with bloody furrows underneath. It looks like they were mauled by a wild animal.

 

If she's listening very closely, she might hear an faint skittering noise, coming from the path to the left.

Permalink Eye

Well. Pity about the death, pity about the family that doesn't get to see their loved one again, but most of all, pity about the rucksack. The corpse is male, but it'd probably be too much to hope for that it's the asshole human that died, so she won't let herself hope. That probably leaves the twi'lek, the gran, the woman, and the asshole. Joy.

 

She is listening very closely, bundle of nerves that she is, and she goes very still upon hearing the skittering.

So: confirmed, there are monsters, and they do want to kill her, and they definitely can.

She stands from her corpse inspection and quietly moves towards the right. Is the skittering getting louder, i.e., is it following her?

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It seems to have stopped. For now.

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That's - promising. Maybe. It makes zero sense for tomb dwelling skittering things to navigate by sight, so she'll be very very quiet. And not turn her light on just yet, anyway.

But she does want to test something - she goes to the nearest non-left doorway, and sees if she's tall enough to feel above it for inscriptions.

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If she stands on her toes and stretches, she can feel indents in the stone wall that seem to be roughly the same sort of shapes as the ones on her note.

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That is good and bad, because she can check things in the dark, but she's not quite sure what the set of symbols that are hers are by memory. Yet. She makes a mental note of checking and memorizing when she reaches a dead end that is silent of skitters. Briefly, she considers going back to the well lit area to read it, but dismisses this as too much of a time waster. Enough time has been lost already, even if time isn't the major factor.

She picks the right-most doorway and goes through it carefully, listening for skitters and watching for lights.

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No noises, no lights. It's kind of strange actually. The tomb doesn't seem to be all that large. With five- make that four other people inside, she might have expected to have heard or seen something indicating their presence. Besides that body back there.

Here is a set of stairs going upwards.

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... Her note said floor two. She'd like to go into what could be presumed to be floor two prepared, and minimize backtracking as much as possible. So that means memorizing her door symbols so well she can recognize them by touch.

She silently lowers her rucksack to the floor, listening for skitters or footsteps or something.

If there are none, she unpacks her thermal blanket and lamp, slowly, keeping as quiet as she possibly can. Ready to - well, not bolt, carefully and quietly move away if she hears a skitter. Any skitters now?

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Nope. It's almost like she imagined it, or something, but that would still leave an unexplained corpse. Unless she imagined that too. The tomb probably isn't messing with her head that much this quickly, but it was convenient, the way the rucksack was gone.

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She does not think she imagined the skitter. She'd be willing to bet a lot of credits (... That she doesn't actually have) that the skitter was definitely real.

...

And she doesn't think she's imagining the - something. She's supposed to be Force sensitive, and Force users are supposedly really aware of their surroundings. Or something. It's not like she's met a Jedi, and she's avoided Sith any chance she's gotten. But someone must have figured out how to do the weird magic-thing without any instruction, so there must be some way to figure it out alone. In absence of anything else, she thinks she should trust her instincts. Maybe they'll keep her alive.

Her instincts say not here, too open. There are two entrances instead of one but she doesn't think she wants to be cornered, either. For a few seconds she waffles, absently mangling an edge of the thermal blanket, cursing herself for not memorizing the symbols while she was in the room with the light.

Then she packs her thermal blanket and lamp back into the rucksack and goes to the second floor.

Permalink Eye

It should be safe for her to duck into the first room she finds on the second floor and consult her note. Well, safe-ish. Better than doing it downstairs, anyhow. Put your back to a wall and hope for the best.

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That is the plan, yes!

She goes to enact this plan, checking for skittering sounds before she does anything else.

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Still quiet. This is either a good thing or a bad thing. Maybe it's just being stealthy after it spooked her the first time.

The pattern of symbols is fairly distinctive. Fifteen minutes' concentration should have them fixed in her mind.

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She takes the time to do that, with her light on the lowest possible setting and with her thermal blanket shielding as much of the light as possible while still giving her the ability to see the symbols. She doesn't let herself relax. She jumps at shadows and pauses regularly to listen for - anything.

And then after fifteen minutes or so, she deems it memorized well enough, and checks how much power's in the powerpack for her lamp before she puts it and the thermal blanket away.

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The power is about a third drained. The reliquary is probably going to be one of those rooms with all the boxes and crates. She might need the light to search with. Time to go exploring!

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She has no plans to use the light until she absolutely needs to, now. She can operate in the dark.

Time to go exploring systematically and with excessive caution, after her eyes have adjusted to the darkness again. Environmental awareness comes before all else, absolute silence comes next, and then noting the layout of the place in her head comes after that.

She is systematic, she is careful, and she checks every single door for the inscription. Eventually, it'll be found.

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For a value of eventually that means it's the fourth door. That was... too easy.

Oh. The room is entirely covered in containers. And they are stacked on shelves along three walls, too. There are well more than she can easily check, with the amount of light she has remaining.

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Oh, dear.

That - does not bode well.

She doesn't need the light to get the containers open, so she can turn it on for a brief moment after getting each container open by touch to check for a training saber. Does that stretch out her light long enough to get her saber?

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Nope. With another third of her power burned, and lots of boxes yet to go, she needs to find a new strategy.

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... How does 'search by touch' go?

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Slowly. She starts to feel a prickle on the back of her neck, like something is coming up behind her, but she won't see anything if she looks.

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Ugh, what is with this tomb, why does she feel like she's being stalked. It's probably insane to think that she's being stalked without any evidence at all.

But she said she'd trust her instincts, so she does. She checks to make sure the room is clear of people with a quick light check, and finds it empty but for herself and the containers. Her - whatever it is is not satisfied with this answer. So, for good measure, she grabs several containers and drags them in front of the door. Just in case. And then she's locked alone in a room looking for her training saber. Again. With a third of her total power left, and running out of patience. She could keep searching by touch, she supposes, but she suspects that's not the point of the exercise, and it'll take ages regardless. So what is the point of the exercise?

... This is supposed to be about training, isn't it? On how to use the Force? Maybe she should try that. Maybe the point of this is to get her frustrated enough to try alternate methods.

She - attempts to reach out with her mind. Or something. Isn't that how it's supposed to work? She has no idea, why didn't they give her an instruction manual...

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She feels like it would be a good idea to check this back corner here, this one particular box in this back corner.

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Okay.

Just - go with it. Nothing to lose if it doesn't work.

She checks that one particular box in the back corner.

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... that doesn't look a "training" anything. It is a sword that would not seem out of place on a battlefield, with a wickedly sharp eighty centimeter blade. But she doesn't think there's anything else in the room that could come close to fitting the description of a training saber.

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And it is completely in character for Sith to give her a terrifying weapon of murder as a training blade, isn't it.

Right then, clearly this is hers, and clearly there is definitely something to her weird inexplicable feelings, so she should just assume she actually is being stalked.

She drinks some of her water and has half of a ration bar, and then takes a deep breath and - okay, weird inexplicable feelings, how does the other side of the barricaded door feel, right now?

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Well, it's not like she can stay in that room forever. Now's as good a time as any to leave.

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Yes but she seems to have sensory abilities so how dangerous is it immediately outside?

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...she doesn't sense anything.

Either because there's nothing to be sensed or because her new-found abilities aren't actually all that reliable yet.

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.... Okay.

She moves the barricade aside, and out she goes. Carefully. Sword at the ready if she needs it.

Do her new senses have anything to say about which way is out?

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Sort of... that-ish way? Maybe?

WAIT SHIT THERE'S SOMETHING RIGHT BEHIND HER

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TRUST THE WEIRD NEW SENSES!

Nothing friendly would sneak up on her like that right behind her she spins and slices with barely a thought because aaaaaaaa!

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A strange, vaguely human-shaped creature dances out of the way of her panicked slash.

"Sword? You. You have... sword?" Its voice is harsh and guttural, like it hasn't been used properly in a long time.

"Get sword, go to academy. Must get sword."

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... Oh, they don't clear this place out when the acolytes are all sorted, they just leave the failures here to terrorize new prospects, what a very Sith thing to do.

"I," she begins, backing away, and then she needs to start over again because she's having some bizarre trouble speaking all of a sudden, "I don't want to hurt you, but I will if you try to grab at me again."

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The creature follows her.

"Must get sword, go to academy. Sword. Must get. Go. Academy."

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The words surely they will let you in eventually, die on her lips, because of course they won't, they're Sith.

"Have you tried closing your eyes and reaching out with your, uh, weird inexplicable extra sense?"

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"Must get sword."

It's getting closer now. The nails on its hands are long and sharp, and caked in blood.

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"Well you can get your own," she informs it, and then she can't back up anymore because she's gone and hit a wall. When did she get that far across the room, she doesn't recall deciding to back up so far that she's on the other side of the room and running into walls, what is this, she didn't plan it, what if the skittering things show up -

This is such an absurd train of thought.

"... Did you kill the other acolyte?" she asks, because that's the next absurd train of thought and she doesn't have the mental capacity to censor herself.

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"SWORD" it screeches, and lunges at her, nails outstretched.

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WELP.

Sword indeed, she slashes without thinking, but with surprisingly accurate aim for a woman whose entire internal thought process now consists of incoherent screaming.

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A bloody line appear across the thing's chest, and it may have lost a finger or two, but it's still coming.

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Clearly the answer to this is the time honored tradition of hitting it until it dies. Or, well, stabbing it until it dies, either one.

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Unlike lightsabers, vibroswords don't cauterize as they cut.

 

By the time the creature stops moving, Nariveth and her new blade are drenched in blood.

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Well. That's. That's definitely some shiny new trauma that she has now.

She checks to make sure it's dead. Then, she loots the corpse, because what else is she supposed to do, she is obviously in danger, she doesn't have time for sentimentality or respect to something that went crazy long ago and then died. ... Well. Something that went crazy long ago and then tried to kill her and failed due to vibrosword to the face. And chest. And arms. And she maybe went a little bit too far, didn't she, she could have avoided killing it entirely if she hamstrung it and turned tail to run -

No, no, don't go down that road. It was a mercy kill in self defense, she needs to stick to that story. Not for the sake of anyone else, for herself. Her other option is to lock herself in a room for a while to have herself a freak out, but that's just not happening. She doesn't want to stay in this tomb any longer.

Does it happen to have the stolen rucksack?

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It does! Upon inspection, the contents appears to be the same as what was in her own, except instead of the two (2) ration bars, there are one and a half (1.5) ration bar wrappers.

If consulted, her mysterious new sense thinks she should go that way to get out. That way doesn't seem to be leading her back to the stairs she came up.

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She takes the power pack, the water, and then decides that she really doesn't want another thermal blanket and uses it to wipe her sword and face clean of blood. ... Well, her sword clean of blood, with her face it's hard to tell without a mirror, but at least she doesn't feel as awful and sticky. Which is good enough for her. The rest of her's going to have to wait until she can get access to a refresher.

Then she consults her mysterious new sense and goes the way directed, regularly prodding it for the million credit question of 'Am I about to be ambushed again?'

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She's not ambushed again. It seems the lost acolyte was the primary danger the tomb had to offer. After she goes up one flight of stairs, then another, she is greeted with the sight of a gently sloping corridor ending in daylight.

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Yay.

Well. Out she goes, sipping water and finishing up the unfinished half of her first ration bar. Who knows when she'll get another meal. (She keeps one hand free for her sword, just in case, and prods her new sense for input constantly.)

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There's a guard at the top of the ramp. They hold up a hand to stop Nariveth, and ask "Group number?"

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"Cresh-21. And I retrieved the sword and everything." Behold, sword.

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The guard doesn't visibly react. There may be eyerolling behind the face-concealing helmet. They note the group on their datapad, and toss her a synthleather belt with a sheathe to hold her sword.

"Hang it over your shoulder. Don't walk around the academy with it drawn." They give directions to where she can find her overseer, and end with "You'd better hurry, you're the last one out."

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Surely she couldn't have wasted that much time - but if her peers were not as safety conscious, the timeline makes sense, she was very careful about being quiet -

Ugh.

"Right. Thank you," she says, putting her sword in its sheath after checking to be sure she did clean the blood off of it properly (she did), and putting on the belt.

Off she goes, to find her overseer. She suspects she will not get to visit the refresher because she was the last one out, that just seems to be how things work here, she is likely going to be covered in blood for whatever comes next. Yay.

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Meanwhile, and slightly earlier...

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Lord Occlus is taking a shuttle down to the surface of Korriban. She doesn't particularly want to be, but Darth Vowrawn had suggested that taking an apprentice from the homeworld would boost her credibility. On reflection, she agreed with him. This would serve to demonstrate that she was genuinely interested in the future of the Sith, and not just some flash-in-the-pan upstart solely motivated by revenge. Not that revenge isn't a major factor in her decision to hunt, humiliate, and kill Darth Thanaton, but she does think his insistence on the traditional path regardless of the changing galaxy is hindering the Sith.

In fact, a break on Korriban might be just the thing. Thanaton is unlikely to make any further overt moves against her while she is at the academy, and it is a fine spot from which to do some further politicking with those members of the Dark Council not yet swayed one way or another. Chief among those being Darth Marr. If she can lock him in, it almost doesn't matter about any of the others. He is a dominant personality. Marr respects strength, which she has, and is fond of the Empire itself, not just as a means for his own power. That sets him apart from most others, but if she can make some important contribution to the war effort...

It really is very nice to be able to think inside her own head without constantly being interrupted and sidetracked. The Voss excursion was well worth the time she invested. But now the shuttle is landing, and she must go meet with the overseer and determine what sort of apprentice she will be saddled with. Hopefully there will be at least one capable of stringing two thoughts together, and if they have any strength at all in the Force, well. That would just be a bonus.

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When Nariveth nears the room she was told her overseer would be in, she can hear him talking with a woman she does not know.

"...truly the dregs of this shipment, my lord. Slaves, and alien filth. It would be better to cast them all aside, and wait for the next arrival."

"You know I don't have the time to waste. I will trust that the trials will serve their purpose of culling the weak, and take what I can from this group."

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Nariveth decides before she actually gets to her overseer that she will not slink in last. Instead, she'll own it. She doesn't regret the logic behind her choices, though they could have been executed a bit better, and she won't act like she's failed. Because she hasn't.

So that is how she walks up, looking perfectly composed, covered in blood but otherwise unharmed. She glances at the Sith Lord, assumes that this is the Sith that'll be taking one of them as an apprentice, and consciously represses a flinch reaction. (Though a proper Force user could probably notice the flare of fear. It doesn't show on her face, but yep, that's some fear.)

She doesn't interrupt their conversation; instead, she'll wait patiently with her hands clasped behind her back, waiting to be addressed. Her bet: the overseer is about to call her some nasty names and call her pathetic. And she is not going to react to a single one of them.

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Both look over to her when she enters. The overseer speaks first.

"You're not dead, then? Pity. The others have already started the next trial, you'd best run to catch up, slave."

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Occlus holds up her hand.

"Wait just a moment, overseer."

To Nariveth, "What took you so much time in the tomb?"

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... She has to talk to a Sith Lord. Directly.

Nariveth swallows the automatic fear response of 'Nothing my lord' and raises her eyes to meet Occlus's.

"He didn't set a time limit, and my own survival matters more to me than his approval. I assumed dangerous things lurked in the tomb and conducted myself as such." She glances dryly down at herself, then back up to look at Occlus. "I was correct."

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Faint smile. This one's a thinker.

"Are you literate?"

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She smiles a little, encouraged despite the terror.

"Yes, my lord."

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"Good."

Occlus turns back to the overseer. "This one will not be participating in the second trial. I am taking her to the library with me, instead. You may have her back tomorrow."

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The overseers splutters. "My lord-! You can't just-"

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"Can I not? Be very sure of your answer, overseer."

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He bows his head in submission. "As you decree, my lord."

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Occlus walks to the door and beckons Nariveth. "Come, acolyte." They start down the corridor.

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That was the most glorious and terrifying thing she has ever witnessed.

It'll be beaten later, she assumes, if she lives, but holy crap she just skipped a trial and won the Sith Lord's approval aaaaa.

She follows Occlus, and debates internally over if it would be overstepping her bounds to ask to use the refresher before library time. While she does this, she is completely silent.

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"We will stop first at your quarters. Arriving late as you did, you will not have had a chance. You may pick up a change of clothes and wash some of that blood off. Man or beast, by the way?"

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"... Thank you, my lord. Man, technically, though it was more beast by the time it decided to attack me."

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"Yes, that sort of insanity can happen with prolonged exposure to areas of intense dark side power. While I applaud your caution, in the future you may wish to spend less time in the tombs."

Walk walk. Occlus knows where she's going.

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Blink. "I was not aware that the tombs had such effects, that - thank you my lord, I will take that into consideration the next time I'm in one of the tombs."

She'll just follow Occlus! That is fine by her.

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"Here we are. I advise you not to leave anything here that you want to keep. The 'fresher is next door, take you time."

Acolytes get barracks-style quarters, twenty to a room. At the foot of each bed is a small trunk. Nariveth will find in two sets of robes in hers.

Occlus leans against the wall, pulls out her datapad, and starts making refinements to her plans for the unaligned Dark Councilors.

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"Yes, my lord," she says, bowing a little. "Thank you."

And then it is systematic get-ready-to-go as quickly and orderly as possible. She gets the blood off first, and considers what she will and will not keep while scrubbing, then gets into the (black) robes and systematically sorts her crap into things she'll keep and things she won't. She transfers the power in her near empty power pack to the second one she got, and leaves the now almost completely empty one in the trunk. Bait, if someone's stupid enough to fall for it. Let them think they're taking something important from her. The now-full one is hers. The other set of robes, her two canteens (both topped off with water from the refresher), thermal blanket, lamp and ration bar go into the rucksack to come with her, aggressively organized to conserve as much space as possible. Her bloodstained clothes can just. Stay in the trunk, as well.

That's all of her belongings taken care of. ... Somewhat depressingly, it's actually the most things she's owned at one time in her life.

"My lord?" she says, when she's ready to go.

Permalink Eye

"One moment." Occlus finishes typing something, and tucks her datapad away again. "This way," she says and walks off.

"I am not necessarily doing you a favor, by bringing you with me. The overseer resents my interference, and will take this out on you. To the other acolytes, you having my personal attention so early will mark you as a higher priority threat than you might otherwise be. Prepare yourself for this."

Permalink Eye

Nariveth follows!

She already knew that she'd be a huge target because of this, but it's nice of the Sith Lord to go and tell her. Which reminds her: new senses, tell her more stuff, she can multitask. Can she tell what her rivals are up to? Or something?

"I understand," she says. She considers, and then decides that if being herself has gotten her favored, she should - do that some more. "... May I ask for advice how to prepare?"

Permalink Eye

She's not that good yet. And she barely knows who her rivals are. Maybe if she pays attention to them when the come back from whatever trial the overseer has them doing, she'll be better able to track them.

"You may."

Is that a smirk? No, obviously not. Even though Occlus is in a good mood because it's still quiet and she's found someone who thinks. Such a thing would be beneath her dignity as a Sith lord.

Permalink Eye

A literal Sith Lord, will wonders never cease.

"What advice can you offer me on how to prepare?"

Pity about not being able to sense her rivals yet. ... She is not quite brave enough to try to look at Occlus with the Force, but she's brave enough to try sensing the area and layout around them. Can she do that?

Permalink Eye

If she tries to look at the area around herself, she's going to get at least a glimpse of Occlus's presence. Occlus has a distinctive and distracting signature, the Force swirls around her in a way that (Nariveth may not realize) it does for no one else, like a rock in a stream creating a wake that is much more chaotic than one would predict for a rock of that size. She might get a vague sense of how big the rooms they pass are, how many people are there, and if she concentrates, a sense of their strength.

"I am going to the library to find information on a form of dueling called the kaggath. The library also contains several texts that a new Force-user may find helpful in learning how to harness their power. I expect you to fetch the books I tell you, but not to aid me in reading them. This may lead to periods of idleness for you."

Permalink Eye

... Nariveth smiles.

"I see. Thank you, my lord."

Also: Occlus is terrifying. Meep. Focus on the not-Occlus, sense room size and people inside and she can start trying to see their strength. Being able to ignore distracting things is also important.

Permalink Eye

Occlus is very distracting, but Nariveth can learn to mostly not-see her. The academy is not infinite in size, so she doesn't have time to get very far on anything else before they arrive.

"I require these titles to start," Occlus names a list of five. "They should all be in that section there. If you need assistance, ask one of the library droids. I will be at this table." She sits.

Permalink Eye

That's okay, it's a thing to work on later.

Nariveth nods, and goes to fetch the appropriate titles from the appropriate section. Are they easy to find if she has basic skills of logic?

Permalink Eye

Yes. This library is maintained by droids, after all.

After Occlus gets her books, she has no further need of Nariveth for a while.

Permalink Eye

Nariveth questions the droids for books for a new Force-user's education. Anything good?

Permalink Eye

Here's one on the Sith Code, here's one on mind tricks, here's one about the theory behind Force-enhanced acrobatics, this one on perception and visions is a little more advanced but she seems to be leaning in that direction.

Permalink Eye

... She grabs all of them, and then sits with her books in a place where she can easily be called upon by Occlus should she be needed for book retrieval, because just because she is excited about education doesn't mean she's going to keep a Sith waiting.

She skims the basics of the one on acrobatics, because she thinks she needs something if things turn to direct confrontation. What can potentially be done?

Permalink Eye

The Force is an energy field generated by living beings. When you move, it moves with you. The trick is to feel how it moves with you, then harness that to create more motion. When you jump, don't just push with your legs, push with the Force that is moving around your legs.

Permalink Eye

That is promising.

She thinks she needs to get a good overview that she can try out on her own while on a trial, though - so, mind tricks?

Permalink Eye

The Force can have a strong influence on the weak-minded. Take your version of reality, and push it at them. If your will is strong enough, you can overwrite their beliefs or intentions and substitute your own.

Permalink Eye

... Creepy. She'll take it over 'literally killing someone,' but. She'd rather not.

Okay, she thinks the perception and vision one will take her longer to digest, so - what does the, ugh, Sith Code say?

Permalink Eye

Peace is a lie, there is only passion. Through passion, strength. Through strength, power. Through power, victory. Through victory, freedom.

There's a lot of propagandistic philosophy, but it seems that by holding strong emotions in the front of your mind, you can summon more power more easily. There are several meditation guidelines suggested to help new initiates understand the principles.

Permalink Eye

And Occlus requires a few more books. They are straightforward to locate.

Permalink Eye

Nariveth fetches more books upon being asked, without delay. One does not keep a Sith Lord waiting, even when one is surrounded by fascinating books about the Force.

But then the books are retrieved, and she believes she has her own book to read. Perception! C'mere, you delightfully advanced book, you, Nariveth wants to learn your secrets!

Permalink Eye

Most Force-users have a basic danger sense and a very good grasp of what is happening immediately around them, in their personal space. Some have a knack for expanding their personal space to a very great radius. There is a story of a Sith who was the absolute ruler of a small city who used this to keep iron control of his subjects' every move. Even more rarely, a few Sith can extend their "personal space" through time as well, and receive visions of future events that directly affect them. These are generally more focused and more reliable than other visions received in the course of more ordinary meditation.

Permalink Eye

... Want.

Okay, but future-sight sounds rare enough that she likely won't be able to get it during the course of the trials, so she needs to go after more immediate aids. She's already expanding her senses, mind control is unpalatable, and she's not sure she wants to read more Sith propaganda, so she'll go read about acrobatics and enhancing her body with the Force.

Permalink Eye

She can read enough to get a solid foundation in the theory, but with something like this there's only so much theory can do before you really have go apply it.

As she reaches that point,

Permalink Eye

Occlus calls her over to return all the books.

"It is time we left."

Permalink Eye

Nnnnnnnnh but the books.

But she suspects Occlus has a reason for this suspiciously convenient timing, so she nods and returns all books to their proper locations and then will follow Occlus out.

Permalink Eye

"I trust you spent your time productively?"

Permalink Eye

Nariveth nods. "I tried to get basics on lots of things so I could practice them in my own time. Thank you, my lord."

Permalink Eye

"I would find it inconvenient if you died. Try not to."

Permalink Eye

"Rest assured," says Nariveth, "I'll try my very best."

Permalink Eye

"Good. The cafeteria is down this hall, they will be expecting you for dinner."

Occlus has other dinner plans. They involve a potential ally with a fondness for Bakuran cloudberries.

Permalink Eye

Nod.

"Thank you, my lord."

And then, to the cafeteria! Attempting to sense things as she goes.

Permalink Eye

There is probably definitely a whole lot of angry/anxious/worried low-ish strength people in that big room there!

People are mostly sitting alone, there are a few small clumps, but not many. The food line is over there, two scoops of green gloop one scoop of grey gloop per person, put your trays here when you're done.

Posture guy is sitting with his back to a wall. When he notices Nariveth's entrance, his eyes narrow. She can sense much anger from him, directed at her. Probably not a good idea to sit near him.

Permalink Eye

She definitely won't sit anywhere within arm's reach of him, that's for sure. And she'll have to keep an eye on him, with that anger. But then, she'll have to keep an eye on all of her rivals, won't she.

Sitting in the middle of the room is better, she thinks. It'll let her sense everyone around her, and really, she's confident that she can notice if someone's sneaking up on her. She gets her three scoops of gloop and sits. The food is less palatable than it looks, but she's ignoring it in favor of trying to pick out her rivals from the crowd, trying to see if anyone's likely to try to hurt her. Posture guy's easy, she'll be keeping an eye on him, but what about the Twi'lek? The Gran? ... She doubts she could recognize the last, the other human, by sight, but maybe she can pick her out through the anger.

Permalink Eye

The Gran is by himself, chewing industriously. He either hasn't noticed her or doesn't care. That girl sitting by the Twi'lek is probably the one from Nariveth's group, judging by the way they're huddled together talking in low tones and every so often shooting brief glances at her.

Permalink Eye

That's interesting. Also somewhat worrying. They seem like they'd be more dangerous than the idiot that postures, because she might not be able to see them coming. Well, might not if she wasn't staying on top of things.

Can she sense their emotions?

Permalink Eye

It's hard to tell. They're not quite like anyone else in the cafeteria, nor anyone else she can remember from walking through the academy. They're almost more focused on each other than they are on her...

Permalink Eye

 


Wait a second.

Are they in love?

Permalink Eye

That... would fit, wouldn't it. Huh. Unexpected.

Permalink Eye

The cold, calculating part of her notes that this is a potential opportunity, and the less cold calculating part of her tells that part to sit down and shut up, she will not let the Sith get awful Sithy emotions all over her, thank you very much. What would she like to do? ... Get them off planet, clearly. If it isn't too risky to herself. It might be too risky to herself. If there was an obvious way to get off planet, she can't imagine that slaves get much chance to get off planet. But it's better than treating them as pawns, she thinks.

Her life is now complicated, that's great. Fantastic, even.

Permalink Eye

She'll have to be on the lookout for what the shuttle arrangements are like. The ship that brought her here docked at an orbital platform and she was transferred to a shuttle for the actual descent. There probably aren't any interstellar ships docked groundside. But the food has to come from somewhere, right? Korriban is not exactly an environment conducive to agriculture. That means deliveries. Unless there are hydroponics somewhere she hasn't seen yet.

Permalink Eye

There's a thing to think about. She'll watch out for that, and for what happens to acolytes that fail besides 'die.' She doesn't expect it to be good, but she might as well understand the situation as much as possible.

It's tempting to try and talk to the duo, but - no, they won't trust her, and it would let on that she's figuring out her Force sensitivity in the area built towards sensing things. While they may be in love, that doesn't mean they won't, say, kill her to try and get a better chance with each other. Or to live. Much as she wants to go, 'Hey! I'm nice, I want to help!' this really isn't the place for it.

She eats her goop, pensively. Can she stretch out her senses to far enough to see a landing pad or two from here?

Permalink Eye

Academy, academy, academy... nope. No landing pad. Maybe if she knew what direction to stretch, but she can't just expand her radius far enough.

There is an announcement over the intercom. "Lights out in twenty minutes." Acolytes start putting their trays back and moving towards the door. She should probably head back to her bunk soon.

Permalink Eye

Yes, she should. She finishes her goop, puts up her tray, and checks to see if Posturer is near the door or in some sort of way that he might cause her trouble as she goes to the barracks.

Permalink Eye

He's already gone.


He's probably assigned to the same barracks she is.

Permalink Eye

Probably.

What are the odds that he's doing something horrible to her bunk? Or at the very least, looking through whatever things she left there.

Well, off she goes, checking for her rivals or anyone that's paying her too much attention as she walks.

Permalink Eye

Her trip is uneventful. Nothing's happened to her bunk, but he walks over to her after she gets to it.

"You," he says. His voice is deep and gravelly. "Are supposed to be dead." Looming. The thing he is doing is accurately described as looming.

Permalink Eye

"Am I? I must have missed the memo," says Nariveth, smoothly.

Permalink Eye

"You were not at the second trial. Why."

Permalink Eye

"And why," she says, thinking of her first master's wife and channeling the haughtiness she projected, "should I tell you that?"

Permalink Eye

"Because I have asked."

Loooooom.

Permalink Eye

He's taller than she is, and stronger, and - well, lots of things, but she's faced down scary people before. She just spent a span of time in the presence of a Sith Lord. She can do this.

"Let me think..." She taps her chin, and smiles. "No."

Permalink Eye

"You will regret this," he promises, but turns to go.

Permalink Eye

Nariveth just smiles.

No she won't.

How's his emotional state doing? How angry is he?

Permalink Eye

He's frustrated. Usually the looming thing works better for him.

The lights go out.

Permalink Eye

Thanks to Force sensitivity, she doesn't have any trouble with navigating to her bunk in absolute darkness. The outer layers of her robes come off and are neatly folded and stored under her bunk next to her boots, and then she decides to use her rucksack as a pillow with a bit of rearrangement to get the cloth parts under her head for comfort.

And then she has a debate over practicing with the Force some more versus getting some actual sleep, decides that it's incredibly likely that they will turn the lights on very early, and therefore she needs to get her sleep where she can.

She spends a few minutes checking the area around her in a paranoid fashion, but if nothing tries to bother her, she'll be asleep within half an hour.

Permalink Eye

Nothing bothers her.

As predicted, the lights do come on early. The intercom buzzes again. "All acolytes are to report to their overseers."

Permalink Eye

Up she gets. On go her outer robes and boots, and then she watches via the Force for where her fellows are going to know where exactly they are to meet their overseer. Because no one's told her that, if it's a different meeting place than last time.

Permalink Eye

After a short time, it becomes apparent they're going to the same spot as yesterday.

The overseer is wearing the same scowl as yesterday. "Your assignment today, worms, is to retrieve a copy of the carvings on the wall of the Machine Vault in the Tomb of Tulak Hord. You have until sundown. Get out of my sight."

Permalink Eye

... Okay.

So, first off: she'll need materials with which to get a copy of the carvings. Is there a place where she can solicit a datapad?

Permalink Eye

...she knows where the library is. It's a place to start, at least. The library should have a map of the area, as well.

Permalink Eye

To the library!

Map? Datapad? (Do not get distracted by the books you can read the books after flying through this trial.)

Permalink Eye

The droids can easily point her to a map, but the concept of a loaner datapad seems to confuse them.

Permalink Eye

There's a familiar face at one of the tables.

Permalink Eye

She gets a copy of the map, notes the correct room, then looks at Occlus in consideration, debating whether or not to ask her for help.

Actually - no. She thinks she won't. This isn't the hard part of the task, if all else fails she's quite sure she can draw something out in blood on her thermal blanket. She doesn't want to, but she could do it if it came to that. And she'd rather not overstay her welcome with the Sith Lord, or coast on her coat tails and get herself killed because she was relying on someone else exclusively. Even if it did work, it'd probably get the overseer and her peers upset with her.

Hm. What's her competition up to? Can she tell from here?

Permalink Eye

They seem to be clustered a few corridors over and down.

Permalink Eye

... What, all together?

Clearly she must go investigate. Subtly. What are they doing there? She'd like to know before she's in sight.

Permalink Eye

They're not killing each other, but she doesn't have the control yet to get fine detail.

When she gets there, she finds a room with wax tablets and styli. The others must have been told about it while she was absent.

Permalink Eye

Hello, favoritism. How are you today.

Whatever, she has a map. She's calling it even.

Well, hand drawing out a carving on a wax tablet with a stylus sounds incredibly annoying and like it'll take a while. ... Can she just get a wax tablet big enough to press against the carving and then remove? She doesn't care if she defaces some dead Sith Lord's tomb a bit.

Permalink Eye

There's a few that are probably big enough, but it might be tricky to carry all that way.

Permalink Eye

Hmmmmmm.

She surmises she can rig up a thing to carry the tablet with her thermal blanket, debates speed on getting this done versus using up her last ration bar, and then goes to see if she can scarf down a single helping of gloop before running off to accomplish this mission.

Permalink Eye

There's gloop available, but the cafeteria is almost deserted. The other acolytes emanate despair. These are the ones who know they're not going to be the survivor.

Permalink Eye

Poor things. But she can't help, she's too busy saving herself.

She scarfs down her single scoop of gloop for the calories, and then returns to get the largest wax tablet available, spends a little while rigging up a way to more easily carry it using her thermal blanket, grabs a stylus just in case her plan doesn't work, and then it's off to the tombs.

Where's her competition?

Permalink Eye

Well on their way. She had better get a move on.

She might find a shortcut that'll make up some time by consulting the map.

Permalink Eye

She consults the map!

Is there a shortcut?

Permalink Eye

There's a hidden staircase that comes out near where she needs to go. Follow the clifftop down that way.

Permalink Eye

She follows the clifftop down that way, smiling a little.

While walking, she tries to poke at her Force abilities; she turns them inward, to see if she can figure out how to enhance her body like the acrobatics book said. Every now and then she checks to see that no one's near her, and for updates on her rivals' progress.

Permalink Eye

She can get brief bursts of Force-enhanced speed, with a bit of trial and error. The path is deserted, and she seems to be gaining on her rivals.

Permalink Eye

Ooo! Ooo! Force-enhanced speed! Force-enhanced speed!

She is really excited about this and practices it, though she won't use it to exhaustion if it looks like it tires her out too quickly.

And of course, she minds where she aims while using it. She is near a cliff.

Permalink Eye

Eventually she gets to the stairs. They're pretty steep, and there is a distinct lack of handrails.


Now would be a good time to work on that sense of balance. Force powers, activate!

Permalink Eye

Force powers, activate, indeed!

She is going to be very careful with the stairs.

Permalink Eye

One step at a time, that's the way.

She makes it to the bottom safely. No sign of the others, just another forbiddingly dark tomb entrance. What fresh horrors await her here?

Permalink Eye

She'll just have to check with her Force powers before she goes in, won't she?

Anything obviously dangerous that she can sense?

Permalink Eye

Vague intimations of lurking danger deep within. Nothing close to the entrance.

Permalink Eye

Caution's going to have to be the word of the day.

She goes over the layout of the place again before entering, so she can be sure she gets the right room, and then after deeming it suitably memorized, in she creeps.

Permalink Eye

She gets about halfway to her destination when she comes across a large chamber which a pack of tuk'ata seem to have made their nest in. There's no way to route around. Only about half the pack are home, five or six dogs.

Permalink Eye

Well. That's a problem.

...

She read about mind tricking people, but there's no reason it wouldn't work on animals to, is there? Can she pick out one that's furthest from the others, push the idea of an interesting sound coming from that way? In a direction she doesn't need to go? With significant willpower behind it.

Permalink Eye

The animal perks its head up, but doesn't seem inclined to get up and move.

Permalink Eye

C'mon, she can do this, they're surely not very smart, she cannot be out-willpowered by some tuk'ata.

She pushes again, stronger this time, a bit annoyed.

Permalink Eye

Curious whine. Sloooowly streeeetch and stand.

Permalink Eye

Interesting sound! Interesting smell! That way! C'mon, tuk'ata, it's fascinating in that place over there, go look!

Permalink Eye

It trots off. Four more to go.

Permalink Eye

She can do this. Shove, next tuk'ata, go join your friend, follow the pack mentality, interesting smell and sound thing over there go hunt it down with your pack!

Permalink Eye

The rest of the pack sits up, and after a bit of grumbling among themselves, follow after the first dog. The room is clear.

Permalink Eye

Through it she goes, speeding herself up with the Force. They'll likely catch her scent when they come back, that'll be fun, but she thinks she can redirect them to another part of the tomb again. If not, well. She can probably outrun them. Or shove fear at them, that could also work, but it seems a bit mean for her tastes.

Is there anything between her and the carvings?

Permalink Eye

There is not! And the relevant section seems to be just a bit smaller than her tablet, and deep enough that she should be able to take a pressing of it.

Permalink Eye

Excellent. Excellent.

She presses her tablet into the carving, checks to make sure all relevant parts of the carving are present in the pressing with a quick use of her lamp, deems it accurate enough for her purposes, and she puts it back in her thermal blanket carrying sling.

How are the tuk'ata doing? Following her scent, perhaps?

Permalink Eye

There seem to... she thinks two, nosing their way up her trail.

Permalink Eye

Well! Tuk'ata, the trail went that way, into that chamber over there!

Permalink Eye

That gets rid of one. The other is not so easily dissuaded.

Permalink Eye

Nariveth growls a little. She will not be defeated by some mangy mutts.

Your prey is in that room, follow your pack mate, you will eat well tonight.

Permalink Eye

There he goes!

That door looks heavy. Probably more than enough to trap them, if she can move it.

Permalink Eye

She hesitates, briefly, because 'starving to death trapped in a room' is really not a great way to go, even if they're just animals -

But then, neither is 'eaten by a pack of tuk'ata.'

She rushes to the door to close it on them.

Permalink Eye

Oof, that is heavy. What's this thing made of, stone? (Yes.)

The dogs turn to look at her.

Permalink Eye

...

Enhanced strength! Enhanced strength! ENHANCE THE DAMN STRENGTH CLOSE IT CLOSE IT CLOSE IT!

Permalink Eye

The door crashes home.


That maaay not have been the best idea. She senses the other three tuk'ata approaching, alerted by the noise.

Permalink Eye

Well, two down, at least.

She takes a deep breath, recalls the bit in the Sith Code book about strong emotions enhancing Force abilities, and promptly channels all of her panic at the possibility of being eaten alive and anger at how completely unfair this is and fear of possibly being eaten alive and pushes fear.

She is the scariest damn thing in this tomb and the tuk'ata had damn well better run!

Permalink Eye

Unfortunately for her, the tuk'ata fear response involves a panicked attack. So now the dogs are running at her. There may be some slavering going on in the jaw region.

Permalink Eye

... Well, fuck.

Out comes the sword. She removes her wax tablet sling, putting it down and stepping away, because she thinks she can't get out of this fight, now.

What else can she do, she's feeling lots of emotion right now, surely she can channel it into something -

Speed.

How closely are they packed together?

Permalink Eye

Pretty closely, the hallway is not terribly wide and they're broad across the shoulder. They're approaching leap range right about...

 

now. The first jumps at her, jaws stretched wide for the bite.

Permalink Eye

Nariveth stabs it mid-leap, trying to move out of the way of the path of its leap. She has the reflexes for it, surely?

Permalink Eye

Almost but not quite. Her stab is on target, but the dog clips her on its way down, knocking her off balance. The other two are coming in rapidly.

Permalink Eye

Great, great, wonderful, what else can she do, she can sense things and shove at emotions and enhance herself and she can back the fuck up, that's a fantastic idea, give her more time to think -

...

TUK'ATA, YOUR PACKMATE IS THE ENEMY!

Permalink Eye

The one on the left turns and sinks its teeth deep into the other one's flank. It howls in pain, and fights back.


Good news, she's no longer in imminent danger. Bad news, there's not enough room to get around that dogfight.

Permalink Eye

She'll just wait for it to end, that's fine by her. She can pick off the survivor, easy.

Permalink Eye

After a furious two minutes, the fight is over. The survivor limps to the side, bleeding heavily, and collapses.

Permalink Eye

Nariveth feels a pang of guilt, because this has all been horrible and she's very sorry for causing this much of a mess, but she steps to the survivor, holds her blade above its head, and stabs neatly into its skull. Might as well make this quick. Be merciful.

And then she retrieves her tablet and its sling, and stalks out of the tomb. Any more tuk'ata? Or, for that matter, have the other acolytes shown up?

Permalink Eye

She passes the Gran going the other way through the nest chamber. He gives her a wide berth.

The Twi'lek and the human girl are near the entrance when she gets there. They eye her mistrustfully, but don't move to attack.

Permalink Eye

She's pretty fine with the Gran giving her a wide berth.

She pauses at the Twi'lek and human girl, and then says, "... Watch out for the rest of the pack, that looked to be about half of them. The others might show up while you're in there."

Permalink Eye

Their response to this gesture is just to glower harder. They know she has no reason to help them.

Permalink Eye

She sighs.

"And mind the other human. He's probably going to show up at the end and try to steal your tablet."

And then she walks off.

Permalink Eye

Glower.


High road or low road on the way back?

Permalink Eye

... She does not want to go up those stairs while tired and emotionally exhausted.

Low road.

Permalink Eye


Posture guy is lurking in those shadows up ahead. He gets in her way.

"Give me your tablet." Looooom.

Permalink Eye

She looks incredibly unimpressed with him.

"I just took out half a pack of tuk'ata by myself and am completely unharmed." Pause. "Fuck off."

Permalink Eye

"I don't believe you."

Permalink Eye

"You can feel free to check."

Permalink Eye

He unsheathes his sword.

"I won't tell you again, girl."

Permalink Eye

... Nariveth giggles a little. It is not a nice giggle.

Once, she witnessed a Sith creating lightning from their fingertips.

She holds out her hand, and channels some hatred.

Permalink Eye

Power surges, and arcs crackling through the air. The lightning strikes Posture, and his whole body seizes. He drops to the ground and screams in pain. Sparks play across his torso while he writhes in agony.

Permalink Eye

She inhales sharply and stops when he's down. Something in the back of her head notes that this is a very bad thing for her to have done, and she drops her hand.

But she's still angry, and it's so tempting to shock him again, or just be done with him and kill him.

Instead, she leans down and repeats, "Fuck off."

And then she keeps walking. She can freak out after the tablet has been handed to the overseer. She will not freak out until after she has handed in the tablet. Breathe. Breathe. Do not think about how much you would so like to kill him. Keep walking. Breathe.

Permalink Eye

He gets his breath back before she's gone too far.

"You fucking bitch!" he shouts. "I'll kill you! I will rip your heart out and feed it to you! Do you hear me! I! Will! Kill! You!"

Permalink Eye

She doesn't turn around. She doesn't shock him again. She doesn't snarl that he's not as scary as he thinks he is. She doesn't let herself turn around and take out her bad day on him.

She keeps walking.

Breathe. Breathe.

Permalink Eye

He doesn't follow. Either because he can't stand yet, or he's not actually that eager to fight her again.

 

There's the academy up ahead. It looks like there's an elevator up now.

Permalink Eye

Well, she can just take the elevator up, now can't she?

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She's probably earned that much. Does she want to go turn in her tablet now, or wait til later?

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Now. She wants to turn it in now.

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The overseer is waiting in his office.

"Back already? Do you want me to just put you out of my misery, slave?"

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... She wordlessly deposits her tablet on his table with a loud thunk.

And then she smiles.

"No."

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The overseer looks down at the tablet, then back up at her. A vein twitches in his temple.

"Get out."

Permalink Eye

"Are there any other trials today?" she asks.

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"Just. Leave."

"Slave."

Permalink Eye

"Are there. Any other. Trials today?"

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"No." His teeth are audibly grinding.

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"Thank you."

And out she gets.

Okay. Step one: refresher, she's having a proper shower, and she will wash her hair. She will get into a new set of nice clean robes. She is going to rebraid her hair afterwards, so it's out of her way for when the Sith want her to go get into some more peril. Then she is going to go to the cafeteria and eat three scoops of gloop, because she will likely need the calories, and she should not eat her rat bar in a fit of angst just because it's easy. And then she is going to find some place very very quiet where she's not likely to be found or disturbed, and she is going to freak out.

Does anything impede her in all steps up to the freak out?

Permalink Eye

Nothing up until the finding a quiet place part. The academy is somewhat busy, and she'll have to hunt for a while to find an unused room with a door she can lock.

Permalink Eye

She can be very, very stubborn when she wants something very, very badly.

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Then she will eventually find a room that suits her needs.

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In she goes, locking the door behind her.

She picks the corner furthest away from the door, and she sits.

She wonders if she's supposed to cry. She doesn't feel like it. Mostly she just feels angry, at this entire insane system, at how it makes people glower at her when she's trying to help them or how it rewards idiots like that posturing imbecile or how it makes her set animals on each other and watch them kill each other. How it drives lost acolytes mad in the tombs of long dead Sith Lords and how it makes others lose hope entirely, despairing in the cafeteria because nothing about this is fair. How she is surrounded by people and yet completely, utterly alone, and how they're trying to twist her in to something she doesn't want to be.

...

Now she feels like crying.

She does, silently.

She's going to burn this entire fucking academy to the ground one day.

But she will not be what they want her to be. She's going to live, and - probably do some more awful things, realistically, but she will not let them break her. She is not lost. She will not submit. She's going to live, and then when Lord Occlus has her as an apprentice and she has more space to work she is going to slip away on a ship the first chance she gets and flee to the Outer Rim. It will be okay.

She's going to be here a little while assuring herself of that.

Permalink Eye

Occlus is naturally keeping an eye on her favored candidate. When she senses the emotional distress Nariveth is in, she goes looking for her.

The door softly clicks open, and Occlus enters. She's not the best at comfort, but she does not want to lose this one.

"Would you like to talk?"

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Nariveth is utterly shocked to see her. She stares, blinking.

"... I. Maybe? I'm. I'll be okay," she assures.

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"Good. The trials are intended to push acolytes beyond their limits, to force them to become strong or perish. You will do things you never imagined that you could. But you will do nothing you were not already capable of. Do not lose yourself to self-doubt."

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"That. Wasn't really my problem," says Nariveth, softly.

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"What was?"

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"I," she begins, and then she stops. She has no idea how to explain this. "I don't know how to succinctly explain, it's.... Okay, I did that last trial, um, beautifully, all on my own. Some - issues with not getting everything perfect, but honestly, when you're dealing with fancy new powers and are under a lot of pressure in a, a death competition that is sort of to be expected. I still walked into the tomb before anyone else, took out half a pack of tuk'ata on my own without taking a scratch, walked out, finished, as everyone else was walking in, and then for good measure when the big idiot thought he could bully me I fried him with lightning." Pause. "I mean I won't sit on my laurels and say that clearly I will win now because I was just that awesome, I'm not an idiot, that'd be crazy, but. I. I don't like feeling like I'm being manipulated, and I feel very much like this academy is manipulating me. If I become something, I want it to be because I chose to become that, not because I was dumped in an academy and put in a death competition and told to be a Sith or die."

Permalink Eye

"You want to be master of your own destiny. Not only the end, but the beginning as well."

Occlus can sympathize with that.

Permalink Eye

"Essentially. And I think I'll turn out exactly how I intend to anyway, but that doesn't mean I don't want to burn this place to the ground in retaliation just to be sure."

Permalink Eye

Oh yes, she likes this one.

"Continue as you have begun, and you may yet see that desire fulfilled. Remember, you cannot always control your situation, but you can always control your response. Succeed in this contest, but do so on your own terms. I am very much looking forward to seeing what you become."

Permalink Eye

Nariveth nods, smiling a little.

"Thanks." That wasn't quite the whole story, somehow she suspects that Occlus would look at her blankly if she ranted about how this academy is a grievous and senseless waste of lives and resources, but it was enough of it that the Outer Rim's looking less tempting.

"I will be okay, just. Needed to freak out a little. ... This helped. Thank you."

Permalink Eye

Smile.

"Good. I have high hopes of you, Nariveth. I trust you will not disappoint." And with that Occlus departs, as quietly as she arrived.

Permalink Eye

Nariveth is sort of weirded out by how she's getting used to the Sith Lord. ... How she's starting to like the Sith Lord.

She takes a little while longer to compose herself, darts to a refresher to wash her face, and then it's back to work.

She has a landing pad to look for.

Permalink Eye

There's nothing out front, she remembers that much from her trip to the Machine Vault today. Where else is there likely to be a pad? The roof or in the back are the two mostly likely places. She could also start at the kitchens, under the assumption that the food is shipped in from offworld and therefore there will be a landing pad relatively close.

Permalink Eye

Hmmm, kitchens seems her best bet for backtracking, she goes there first.

Permalink Eye

Kitchens, kitchens, where are you hiding? Cafeteria is here, look around a bit, oh here they are.

Staffed entirely by slaves, unsurprisingly. No one is willing to look at Nariveth when she enters.

The door on the far side is probably her best bet.

Permalink Eye

... She is mildly surprised by being scary. She certainly doesn't see herself as scary, and three days ago, she could have easily traded places with any one of them. But then, three days ago she would have thought she'd just be dead instead of the most promising candidate in her group, getting out of each trial physically unscathed and personally favored by the Sith Lord looking for an apprentice.

So it's probably just as well.

She goes to the door on the far side.

Permalink Eye

It leads to a pantry, and then there's another door on the far side. This one leads outside to a shuttle pad.

It's guarded quite heavily, for such a small space. Let's see, one, two... five, in total. Annnnd one of them is coming over to her.

"Acolytes are not permitted. Leave, now."

Permalink Eye

"Certainly," she agrees, and out she goes.

So she knows where that is.

Is there a place near the pantry door that is not actually in the pantry or the kitchens, where she can sense this place and try to figure out weaknesses?

Permalink Eye

No, that seems to be the only close approach.

Permalink Eye

How distressingly well designed of them.

Can she extend her range far enough to sense it?

Permalink Eye

She can sit in the cafeteria and pretend to eat for a while. If she does, she'll find that the guards seem dishearteningly intent on their duty. It would probably be very hard to distract or trick them.

Permalink Eye

She can eat some more, that's fine. She'll eat slowly.

What about alternate methods of getting onto the platform?

Permalink Eye

Nothing easy. The designers were well aware not everyone attending would be doing so willingly. Not even any upper story windows to climb down from.

Permalink Eye

What about cliff faces to climb up from? Or a way to get there from the roof?

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It's surrounded on three sides by the academy, and a featureless desert plain makes the fourth. She would be seen coming from kilometers away if she tried that approach. The academy walls are sheer and offer no handholds. She can't tell if there is anything to anchor a rope from on the roof.

Permalink Eye

That seems - unwise. This feels too well planned out to her to be usable as an escape route by a pair of acolytes on another acolyte's instruction.

Let's look for other landing pads.

Permalink Eye

Well, the kitchen investigation lead her to the back, so that just leaves the roof. Time to find some stairs.

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She bets she can find some stairs! Let's find some stairs!

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Oh look, here's some stairs! And there's even more stairs at the top of the stairs! What luck!

But once she's on the top floor, there doesn't seem to be a door leading to the roof.

Permalink Eye

What about large windows?

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All front-facing, solid transparisteel. Not hinged.

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She's just going to go out on a limb and say she can't break that with her sword.

She'll instead wander the top floor, looking for landing pads through the Force.

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She doesn't sense any.

...Given the lack of doors, this is not really a surprise in retrospect.

Permalink Eye

No, but this is a good place to find landing pads that other doors could possibly lead to.

Okay, so. Well guarded landing platform is the only one she knows about and can easily find out, she'll have to start keeping an eye on it for potential holes in the defense.

Can she be in the library and still sense the landing platform?

Permalink Eye

It'll be a little hard to concentrate on her reading, but yes.

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She's got a good sense of time, she can regularly stop reading to sense what's going on at the landing pad.

So! That book on sensing stuff! That seems relevant, let's read that some more.

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It goes into further detail about certain techniques one can employ to increase their range, and some exercises to help sort and process all the additional information. On the subject of visions it remains frustratingly vague.

Each time she checks on the landing pad, she'll find the guards vigilant. One time she manages to catch a shuttle arriving. The only person on it is the pilot, and all the offloading seems to be done by droids.

Permalink Eye

She can practice the techniques about increasing range when she checks on the landing pad, that seems a very efficient use of her time.

... Is anything put onto the shuttle?

Permalink Eye

That will help her catch the droids! Mechanicals are notoriously difficult for the naive Force-user to sense.

Nothing seems to be. She only gets to see the one shuttle, though. Lights out is announced soon after.

Permalink Eye

Damn it. Damn it.

She puts her book back and goes to the barracks, cursing her own inability to figure out an escape route today.

Any charming presents at her bunk?

Permalink Eye

A severed Gran eye-stalk is hiding under her sheets. Posture makes an obscene gesture at her.

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She should have killed him. She should have fucking killed him. She had the chance, it was the absolute perfect chance, and she didn't, and now the Gran is either permanently disfigured or, more likely, dead. This is - not, perhaps, her fault, she has no illusions about who's responsible for this, but she definitely could have prevented it if she was a bit less self centered and a bit more aware of what happens when one lets a posturing bully run rampant.

Ugh. Well she can't kill him now, so - how much of a mess has the eye-stalk made? Is there blood all over her sheets?

And, perhaps more importantly, is the Gran present in the barracks?

Permalink Eye

There is only minor staining from the eye-stalk. It doesn't seem to have had much blood left in it by the time it got to her sheets.

The Gran himself is nowhere to be seen.

Permalink Eye

She should have killed him.

The eye-stalk has been left abandoned so long that she thinks it's just impossible to get to a medical technician to possibly salvage if the Gran's alive, and this is a Sith academy, so she doubts anyone present's going to care. She runs through potential ways to save it, comes up with none, and accordingly drops it unceremoniously into her trunk.

Upon reflection, she doesn't actually care very much about the minor staining. Off come her boots and outer robe, and into bed she goes.

She's going to have a bit of trouble sleeping, because she's too busy thinking of tidy ways to assassinate someone when directly killing other acolytes isn't technically allowed, but she'll fall asleep eventually anyway.

Permalink Eye

It's all about timing. There aren't any overseers out in the tombs.

The lights come on early again. Time to go see what the overseer has in store for today.

Permalink Eye

She is the first one there because she's still pissed and being pissed makes her extremely efficient.

Permalink Eye

The overseer scowls and doesn't say anything until the rest show up. Posture, then the lovers. Still no sign of the Gran, and the overseer doesn't wait for him.

"You maggots will be having separate trials today. You, Nils," he throws a datapad at Posture, who catches it. "You are going to the library. Read the books listed. Move." Posture leaves.

"You, slave." This is directed at Nariveth. "Weapons training. Second floor practice room. Go."

Permalink Eye

... Okay? This seems surprisingly non terrible for an assignment from the overseer, she's confused. Is he trying to get - Nils, apparently, is his name - to gain on her in Force powers so he can kill her later? That makes the most sense, but she can get weapon training while working on her strength with the Force, so as long as she doesn't exhaust herself and keeps an eye on the area around her with her sensory abilities, she should be okay. Probably.

She blinks, then goes to the second floor practice room without delaying to grab breakfast, because there could be a Sith teacher involved, and they don't like to be kept waiting.

Permalink Eye

There aren't any Sith in the practice room when she gets there. There is a flashing terminal to one side of the door. It reads:

{ENTER TRAINING LEVEL - NOVICE -- INTERMEDIATE -- ADVANCED}

Permalink Eye

... Oh.

Well then.

She's getting breakfast.

Permalink Eye

The cafeteria is serving grey gloop.

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Eh, it's calories. Nom.

And then it's time for training with the computer system.

Is it really just three different modes? No other side buttons for a customizable experience?

Permalink Eye

Yep. Three sizes fit all.

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... She is very apprehensive of this.

But she thinks the overseer hates her enough to say she failed if she turns around without taking any weapons training at all, so...

She draws her sword, and then presses the novice button.

Permalink Eye

There's a whirr and clank from inside the wall, and a hidden door pops open. One humanoid droid steps out, carrying a single vibrosword. It strikes a guard pose.

Permalink Eye

It's clear why the Overseer sent her here, she is going to get cut to ribbons.

She - doesn't really have any idea what she's doing. She also strikes what she thinks is a guard pose? Heavily matching the droid's form? ... What the fuck is she doing, this is a terrible teaching method.

Permalink Eye

When she puts up her sword, the droid moves in to attack. Its swings are slow and broadly telegraphed. It only has about four different cuts in its repertoire, and three ways to parry.

Permalink Eye

Oh! Oh this isn't completely awful! Okay!

She can work with this!

She practices responding to its strikes before she figures out how to deal with its parries, defense seems important for her to get sorted before she moves on to how to kill people.

Permalink Eye

This droid is very stupid. It will keep doing the same cuts for as long as she keeps responding to them.

Permalink Eye

She's okay with that.

Once she's gotten how to defend against these specific cuts, she moves on to trying to figure out how to stab it.

Permalink Eye

It can bat her blade to the left, it can bat her blade to the right, and it does sort of a swoopy loopy thing when she tries to stab at it.

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Oo, swoopy loopy thing, clearly she must figure out how this works and copy it.

She'll briefly be distracted from trying to stab it by trying to copy the swoopy loopy thing.

Permalink Eye

The swoopy loopy thing is pretty easy to get the hang of, after she sees it a couple times. If she stands just so, she can get the droid to use its stabbing move more often to practice.

Permalink Eye

She notices this and stands just so to get in her practice, and then once she has gotten the swoopy loopy thing down she goes back to trying to stab it. ... In different ways, to see how it reacts.

Permalink Eye

It only has the one response. Plus the two slash defenses.

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Sigh. She was hoping for a bit more.

Well, that makes it easy to get past its defenses, doesn't it? She figures out a way to do that, and the droid is stabbed.

Permalink Eye

Bzzzt. Now there is a smoking hole in its chest. The terminal chimes and flashes.

{NOVICE TRAINING COMPLETED}

{ENTER TRAINING LEVEL - NOVICE -- INTERMEDIATE -- ADVANCED}

Permalink Eye

She'll sit down and have some water before poking the intermediate button, but she does think she wants to poke it. This is actually some very useful knowledge she's getting, she learned a lot from the novice droid, and she is not going to be able to win by shying away from learning things.

After she's caught her breath and had a proper rest, she goes and enters 'intermediate.'

Permalink Eye

Further whirrs and clanks from inside the wall, and another hidden door pops out. Another droid walks out, of a similar model to the last. It too strikes a guard pose, though somewhat more fluidly.

Permalink Eye

She matches the guard pose, stretching out with the Force to see if she can figure out where it's going to hit before it hits so she can defend it early, and reflexively checking the hallway for anyone because oops she really should have done that sooner.

Permalink Eye

The hallway is clear, and it's good that she is using the Force, because this droid is much faster than the last, and harder to read. It has twelve styles of attack, and will mix and match depending on what she seems to do well against.

Permalink Eye

... Well, she wanted to learn! She's learning now!

She does not immediately get her ass handed to her, which is good, but she clearly has a lot of work to do.

She focuses on defense, again, and how to properly respond to each of the twelve styles of attack. Once she has that, she works on how to defend herself more efficiently, to use up less energy in movement so she's less winded.

She's probably going to get tired before she gets to attacking it.

Permalink Eye

Yeah, this thing doesn't have an "Off" switch. It just keeps coming.

Permalink Eye

Even if she darts far enough out of its reach to be out of range of its sword, and drops her guard?

Permalink Eye

Even so. Sith: Not Known For Rewarding Weaknesstm

Permalink Eye

Of course not. Why was she expecting this to be reasonable and care about her education and welfare. Her guard goes back up.

That's fine, though. She doesn't have to play fair.

She considers using lightning, but she's pretty sure that is the closest thing she has to literally channeling hatred through her soul. She'll keep it in mind as an option, but she'd rather not. So that means she has to get more creative. Force speed might get her around its defense, and Force strength might let her beat it into submission with raw power, but if either of those mess up she'll likely get sliced open. And she'd prefer to avoid getting hurt if she can manage it, she doesn't know what the medical care's like here. It might be 'rub dirt on it and walk it off' for all she knows. Mind tricking the droid is just - not happening, it's a droid. Maybe she could potentially screw up some of its internal processes, but she has no idea how those work, and would need the Force to check, and that'll take time. And meanwhile, she's getting more and more exhausted.

She keeps her defense up, considering what to do and reviewing all of the things she's learned. ... The book on acrobatics said that she wasn't moving her legs, she was moving the Force that was moving her legs. Which stands to reason that she can potentially move things that aren't hers.

The next time the droid attacks her, she reaches out and tries to throw off its aim.

Permalink Eye

Its sword slices through the air about half a meter to her left.

Permalink Eye

Nariveth grins.

She waits for its next slice, throws off its aim even more, and then neatly stabs through it.

Permalink Eye

Bzzzt. The droid falls over.

{INTERMEDIATE TRAINING COMPLETED}

Danger senses... tingling! Now would be a good time to move forward very quickly!

Permalink Eye

She doesn't question it. She moves forward very quickly!

Permalink Eye

Just in time to avoid the sword of the Twi'lek scything through a plane that would have neatly bisected her.

The human girl follows him into the room, closing the door behind her. She draws her weapon as well, and they spread out so as to come at her from both sides, grim expressions on their faces.

Permalink Eye

 


What.

What!

"What," she says, stunned, voicing her thoughts.

Permalink Eye

"If we kill you, the overseer will let us leave," says the girl.

Permalink Eye

"Bullshit, he's lying," says Nariveth, immediately. But - is he? He might not be, that makes a lot of sense if he wants to get his apparent favored candidate through, just to show up Lord Occlus and go nyeh nyeh, your favored candidate didn't get through.

Permalink Eye

"Even so," says the Twi'lek, beginning to circle around her. "One less for us to worry about later." The girl nods in tight-lipped agreement.

Permalink Eye

"Oh, so at the very end you get the joy of killing each other? I'm not the big idiot, I don't want to kill you, I've been looking for a way to get you off of Korriban!"

She keeps her distance, but it's hard to avoid getting boxed in with two opponents.

Permalink Eye

The Twi'lek growls and moves in to attack. The girl blocks Nariveth's retreat. He's as fast as the last droid, but not quite as imaginative in varying his attacks.

Permalink Eye

She can keep up with him, she was doing it before with the droid. As long as the girl doesn't join in she can just play the parry game.

"How else do you see this going?! Why do you think he's having you aim for me?! I am not the acolyte he wants me to be! Stop trying to kill me I want to help you!"

Permalink Eye

"I don't believe you," he grinds out. "Now, Sen!" Here comes the girl, aiming a flurry of strikes at Nariveth's back.

Permalink Eye

She was expecting this, and Sen gets to have a little problem with her footwork in the realm of 'suddenly having one foot pull forward so she goes falling backwards.'

"Okay," says Nariveth, "then how about this: do you really think you can take me?!"

Permalink Eye

This prompts a frustrated roar from the Twi'lek, and the strength of his blows greatly increases as he sees Sen fall. She'll be back on her feet in a few seconds, and joining the attack.

Permalink Eye

Nariveth's already moving away from her, parrying each blow from the Twi'lek as she retreats. Give her time before Sen's properly back in the fight.

She will not kill them, and she will not use lightning, but she does not have to be nice.

The Twi'lek gets his footwork ruined with the power of telekinesis, and then while he's down he gets a well aimed kick to the groin.

Permalink Eye

He grunts in pain, and stays down for a while. Sen takes his place. She's smaller and not as strong, but much quicker.

Permalink Eye

Well Nariveth has Force speed, so she can keep up, and then she decides that while she's playing with telekinesis she might as well make Sen's sword go flying out of her hand towards a completely empty corner of the room.

Permalink Eye

Sen dives after it.

The Twi'lek is getting back on his feet.

Permalink Eye

And Nariveth takes this chance to sprint to the door and bolt, grabbing her rucksack and sheathing her sword on the way.

Permalink Eye

"This... isn't... over," gasps out the Twi'lek, but neither follow immediately.

Permalink Eye

"Trying to help you!" she calls back, but she doesn't stop running.

Permalink Eye

Well. She probably shouldn't go back to that practice room any time soon. "Weapons training" was probably just a pretext for the overseer to put her alone in a room anyway. What now?

Permalink Eye

She. She's not really sure, actually, she's going to go fail to catch her breath in a hallway over here and be shocked that some people actually just tried to kill her.

Permalink Eye

They didn't succeed, at least?

This will definitely put an interesting new wrinkle in her plan to get the out of here, if she can't even talk to them without them trying to murder her. And there's still the part where she hasn't figured out how do that yet.

Permalink Eye

The plan is looking a bit untenable, it's true. But she's not going to let that stop her.

...

Where is Lord Occlus?

Permalink Eye

She seems to like the library...

Permalink Eye

Is Nils also there?

Permalink Eye

Sensing... no.

Permalink Eye

But Occlus is!

Permalink Eye

Okay. She's going there, then.

Permalink Eye

Occlus is at her usual table.

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Deeeep breath.

"My lord?" she asks, wondering if she's gone completely insane or not.

Permalink Eye

"Yes?"

Occlus doesn't seem terribly upset with being disturbed.

Permalink Eye

"May I interrupt to ask you several questions?"

Permalink Eye

"I count two so far, you may as well continue."

Permalink Eye

... Giggle. "Fair enough."

She sits.

"So, the pair of lovers in my acolyte group tried to kill me. I defeated them pretty handily, but didn't kill them. I don't see why my victories should have to be complete with murder, is there a way to instead get them off of Korriban?"

Permalink Eye

"Why do you flinch from killing? They attacked you, clearly they have no such regard for your life."

Permalink Eye

"Yes, but they're desperate. ... And a touch deluded. I have no desire to flinch from killing with my other rival, but with them it's the system we're all stuck in causing them to react... Badly. So I don't see why I shouldn't remove them from it."

Permalink Eye

"What steps have you taken thus far, to 'remove' them?"

Permalink Eye

"Information gathering. I tried scouting out the area for the exits, the only landing pad I could find was by the pantry, well guarded and difficult to get to, with the only entrance through the kitchen and then the pantry. Descending from the roof is untenable, I could potentially break a window with the Force but it would probably make a lot of noise and attract a lot of attention, and climbing up to the roof's likely impossible without proper climbing equipment. The guards are too focused on their task to be mind tricked, the non-academy side of the landing pad is open terrain, impossible to sneak through... So, I'm seeing if I have other options available."

Permalink Eye

"Well thought out. You are serious about this, then." Occlus pauses. "It is not within my authority to directly remove those two from the academy. I could arrange for them to have a serious but non-fatal training accident, and then from the infirmary be moved off-world. But I would need a reason to do so."

Permalink Eye

She has to put this into terms that make sense to a Sith. ... She can do that.

"If they're dead, they're of no use to anyone. If I get them out of here, they could be of use to me, when they've recovered. Perhaps they wouldn't be - honorable enough to say that they'd owe me a favor, but one thing I am sorely lacking in is connections, and I could certainly use a few." Pause. "... Depending on the definition of serious but non-fatal training accident, I could likely help with that."

Permalink Eye

"I thank you for the offer, but it would be best if you had no further involvement in this."

She taps her chin thoughtfully. "Your reasoning is good, I will accept it. Consider the matter taken care of. Was there anything else?"

Permalink Eye

... Nariveth grins.

"No. Thank you."

Permalink Eye

"As you were, then." Negligent finger flick. Back to the books.

Permalink Eye

Nariveth nods and shoos. She practically floats to the cafeteria (because she needs to get some more calories in her after that morning) to eat.

She keeps an eye out for the troublesome duo and Nils, because while she is gleeful she is now far too used to this place to trust that just because she won she's safe.

Is anyone going to bother her in her giddy bliss?

Permalink Eye

Two acolytes she doesn't know, sitting just down the table are!

"Hey. Hey, girl. You in Occlus's group?"

Permalink Eye

She glances up from her gloop.

"Yes? Why?"

Permalink Eye

The one who spoke nudges the other. "I told you, man!" He giggles. The other speaks, smirking.

"I wouldn't try too hard in my trials if I were you, then. Darth Thanaton's gonna kill Occlus and anyone who's with her the minute she steps off-world."

Permalink Eye

"Well if I don't try hard in my trials," she says dryly, "I die. So I don't really see how that's any better."

Permalink Eye

"Ah, see, difference is, Thanaton'll kill you painfully. He really don't like Occlus." Both laugh.

Permalink Eye

"Well, see, things here can kill me painfully, too. It depends on how sadistic my rivals are and how much they want me to suffer. Which, let me let you in on a little secret: I have pissed them all off. And my overseer. So what, then, do you recommend? Should I fling myself off of a cliff now, make sure my death is as quick as possible?"

Permalink Eye

"Hey now, just tryin' to help. No need to get snippish."

Permalink Eye

"Sure," she shrugs. "But I'm really not the type to take the certainty of a painless death over the possibility of a painful one. That's just really not how I work. But thank you for the warning about Darth Thanaton."

Permalink Eye

The two give her an 'it's your funeral' sort of look, and go back to their food.

Permalink Eye

Nariveth also goes back to her gloop that tries to pretend it's food. The situation makes her nervous, she does not want to make it out of the academy only to immediately die, but - there's nothing to really be done about that situation except prepare herself as much as she can. And she doesn't think Occlus is stupid, or quite as easy-to-kill as the acolytes think. And Nariveth has the sneaking suspicion that Occlus is up to something. Or maybe that's just blind hope.

And then she is out of gloop, and trying to figure out what to do.

Where are the lovers at the moment? And where's Nils?

Permalink Eye

The lovers are - in quite a lot of pain, but nowhere near the second floor practice room.

Nils is nowhere that she can sense.

Permalink Eye

Well, that was fast, for the training accident. Points to Occlus for efficiency, she supposes.

And - nowhere? That's worrying. But maybe he's done her a favor and gotten killed somehow on his assignment to read in the library. ... That's probably too much to hope. Yeah, okay, it's too much to hope.

She'll go check to make sure there isn't another trial she hasn't been told about.

Permalink Eye

The overseer is not happy to see her. That vein in his temple is pulsing again.

"I have. Nothing. For you. Slave. Leave."

Permalink Eye

The sight of him furious makes her feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

"Thank you," she says, smiling, and out she goes.

Her smile drops when she's out of the room. This is concerning. Clearly Nils is up to something, and she doesn't know what. Something in the tombs, maybe? But why would anyone willingly go there? What's he up to?

Clearly she must prepare. Somehow. Her worst area seems to be martial combat, and the droid was exceptionally helpful. The skills she learned from it kept her alive against the desperate duo. And when she's tired she can practice with the Force, especially with her telekinesis. This seems like an efficient use of her time.

Off she goes, to fight the intermediate droid again.

Permalink Eye

Someone's cleaned up the the husks of the droids she's already defeated.

Whirr. Clank. Guard stance.

It still knows the same moves as the last time she fought it.

Permalink Eye

First, she runs through all of her defensive moves - she needed a refresher on a few, but picks them back up soon enough. Then she practices them until she's trimmed them down to something resembling efficient movement, and then decides she needs to know how to go on the offensive.

She starts trying to stab the droid.

Permalink Eye

Its parries are more elegant than the novice droid's. And if she's too reckless, she's going to be caught by the riposte.

 

Yeah, just like that. Now she's bleeding.

Permalink Eye

She wasn't exactly being reckless, but she was overreaching a bit in an attempt to actually properly stab it, and - well, she miscalculated.

She throws off the droid's aim again, stabs it, and then inspects her injury. ... It really isn't bad. Just a scratch, really.

Well, this is a good time for a break as any, and she sits to sip water, put pressure on the scrape, and see about practicing her telekinesis. She can definitely send things flying across the room, like Sen's sword, but can she do sustained floating?

Permalink Eye

What is she trying to float?

Permalink Eye

Her water canteen, now that she's done drinking.

Permalink Eye

Up it goes. It takes a piece of her concentration to keep it level in the air, but only a piece.

Permalink Eye

She has two water canteens, let's try floating several things at once!

Permalink Eye

That's a bit harder, but it doesn't take her long to have the other one up there as well without dropping the first.

Permalink Eye

By this point, she's sitting with her eyes closed, floating the both of them. This is soothing. No panic of something trying to kill her, no summoning up waves of emotion to shove at people, no desperate search for a way to use her resources to win. Just her, and the - well, the Force, she supposes.

She doesn't let herself relax enough to stop looking out for Nils, but she does relax.

...

Can she float herself?

Permalink Eye

Only one way to find out.


(Yes, she can.)

Permalink Eye

In order to get there, she has to - not exactly lose herself to the Force, but does have to... let her body fall away.

At first, she doesn't remember the weight in her limbs or the feeling of the ground under her, and if asked if she still breathed, she'd honestly say she has no idea. It's all so tiny in comparison to the Force. It's just a little piece in a very big web. She is not insignificant, no one is. She can feel the waves of emotions pouring off everyone in the academy, the anger and the fear and the anxiety and the pain, how the entire area sings of desperation and ancient agonies and power. Of hunger.

It's overwhelming. There's a minute where she worries she's going to drown in it, be swallowed up by the despair, but she remembers herself and pulls back and focuses inward before it gets the chance. This is her heart beating, these are the breaths she breathes, this is the way the Force flows through her. This is the tiny slice of - not exactly peace, not exactly stillness, but sureness, rightness, in the world. She lives, she struggles, and though bits of this awful place have seeped in around her edges, made her colder, sharper - she is not twisted and broken. She does more than hunger and hurt, does more than lash out and scheme, and right now, that's enough. Proof that the hunger has not won. She can't fix it right now - it's such a large hurt, the pain all around her, and the echoes of screams cut deep into the planet itself - but maybe one day. Things do not have to hurt. There can be good in the world, there can be peace, there can be more than this unending hunger and coldness.

She just has to make it happen. Eventually.

For now, though, she can lift herself a few inches off the ground.

Permalink Eye

"Lights out in twenty minutes." The intercom has no regard for her moment of insight.

Permalink Eye

 


Aaaaaand that is how you get an acolyte to drop out of the air and land unceremoniously on the ground. Ow.

She opens her eyes, sighing. Thanks, academy, don't mind her, she's just having a quasi-religious experience! Ugh. She'd wanted to take a shower, too - the sweat's dried by now (how long was she there?) but she still feels kind of sticky and gross. ... She can probably rush and go get most of the grime off, if she's fast. And she can be fast.

After a Force speed fueled rush to the refresher, she has the fastest shower of her life, and manages to make it to her bunk seconds before lights out, hair dripping.

She checks for any more gruesome presents in the dark with the Force, but she doesn't expect she'll find any. Nils made his point.

Permalink Eye

No presents today. And no sign of the Twi'lek or Sen.


The lights come back at on at the usual time. Another Sith day, another Sith credit.

Permalink Eye

Another trip to the overseer to see what new and exciting torture he's going to inflict upon them.

(But she'll be okay. She found a little sliver of peace, and she's going to be keeping it. Whatever happens, it'll be okay.)

Permalink Eye

The overseer has a self-satisfied smile today. "Today is your final test. There is a lightsaber in the central chamber of the Tomb of Naga Sadow. The one who returns it to me will become Lord Occlus's apprentice. Best run, slave. Nils should be halfway there by now."

Permalink Eye

She gives him a cold glare, and then turns and sprints out of the academy, checking her map as she runs. Are there shortcuts to Naga Sadow's tomb that she can use?

Permalink Eye

No. But there's also only one path through the tomb. She might be able to catch him before he can leave.

Permalink Eye

Okay. That works for her. And she has Force speed.

Off she runs, stretching her senses to their limits to try and catch dangers before they're actually dangerous to her.

Permalink Eye

Nothing threatens her between the academy and the tomb entrance. When she gets there, she can sense Nils is about halfway through already, and moving quickly.

Permalink Eye

She'll just have to try very hard to catch up, won't she? Halfway through to the lightsaber isn't bad, anyway, she can definitely catch him.

That being said, she does check the tomb for dangers while she's in it. Because there can always be dangers in a Sith Lord's tomb.

Permalink Eye

Nils has been taking care of things as he goes.

Permalink Eye

That's very convenient for her, isn't it.

Does she make it to him before he makes it to the lightsaber?

Permalink Eye

She catches up to him just after he gets to the central chamber. He turns and draws his sword.

"You're not going to win so easily this time, girl."

Permalink Eye

She doesn't reply, she's already pressing the attack, sword out and moving to stab him with it before his guard's properly up while he goes and postures like an idiot.

Permalink Eye

She gets one hit in, and his face contorts with rage. He flings a hand up and pushes her back.

"Not. Again." He flips his hand over, and lightning bursts forth. "How do you like it, bitch?"

Permalink Eye

Pain.

She crumples to the ground, snarling, and for a few seconds it's like the shock collar all over again. Like she's helpless and at the mercy of someone else and their button. Like she's calculating how much she wants to say and whether or not she can take it just to prove that she is not broken. Like she's got nothing but fire and wit and stubbornness to protect her from people that are trying to persuade her into obeying meekly.

It didn't really work then, either.

She reaches with the Force without thinking, and she pulls Nils into the air.

And then she slams him down, with as much speed as she can muster.

Permalink Eye

"Unnhh," he grunts in pain on landing. "How di- you- Impossible!" He flips back up on his feet. More lightning.

Permalink Eye

... She giggles. Who cares if she's in pain? She has telekinesis.

"Always, with, the electricity," she hisses through her teeth.

She picks him up with the Force, pulls him up higher, and slams him down again.

"You'd think," slam, "someone," slam, "would figure out," SLAM, "that it doesn't," SLAM, "fucking," SLAM, "work!"

She slams him into the ground one final time, hard as she can, and then she needs to take a minute to cough and let her body spasm uselessly because ow pain.

Permalink Eye

Well now he's not gonna get a chance to. If you want someone to do some deductive reasoning, it helps to leave their skull fully intact. And not break all their limbs. And probably their spine. And their ribs. It'd actually be more surprising if there was a major bone left in his body that was unbroken. He was hitting the ground pretty hard there.

So yeah. That shiny round thing on that pedestal in the center is probably the saber she came for.

Permalink Eye

The saber can just sit tight and be patient, because she's going to need a minute to be ready to stand.

She checks to make sure Nils is dead - oh, oh yes, he is very dead, and also kind of splattered all over the floor, she does not mess around when she kills people - and then she shakily stands and stumbles her way to the pedestal.

Anything secretly dangerous? She would not like a random trap to kill her after that.

Permalink Eye

No, just a perfectly ordinary lightsaber sitting on a perfectly ordinary pedestal, in the middle of a perfectly ordinary Tomb of a Dark Lord of the Sith.

Permalink Eye

Fucking Sith Academy and its shit.

There are still tremors in her hands when she picks up the lightsaber. She takes a minute to still them, and then looks at her shiny new prize... and immediately hates it. It feels too long, too devoid of texture, too - are those pointless spikey things on the top? Those definitely look like pointless spikey things on the top. She can understand a spikey thing on the pommel, sort of, maybe shock someone with a pointy bit they weren't expecting, but seriously, what good would it even do on the top? That is clearly the part the blade comes out of. What, are you going to stab someone and then turn it on? Stupid. She snorts, and turns it on, without wasting time stabbing anything with the pointless spikey things. A red blade hums before her. Yeah, she hates that, too. Red's not her color.

But it's not like she can actually just toss it. She turns it back off, and clips it to her belt in place of the sword. ... She's just going to leave that sword. Actually, while she's at it, she'll leave the sheath, too. They can just rot in this fucking tomb with the splattered remains of Nils. She wonders, vaguely, if there are Imperial Janitors. Probably. And she bets they don't get paid enough.

By the time she's out of the tomb, her feet have found their surety again and her legs have stopped feeling like they're made from some kind of paste that got scraped out of an ion engine.

She shows up to the overseer's office. ... Just to piss him off, she smiles cheerily, and gives a little wave.

Permalink Eye

Any comments he might make are moderated by Occlus's presence. She, at least, is pleased to see Nariveth.

"Well done. Apprentice." She holds out her hand to receive the saber.

Permalink Eye

"Thank you, my lord." Nariveth smiles at Occlus, and hands her the saber.

"You can go get your pet, by the way, I left him in the tomb," she informs the overseer lightly. "Bring a mop."

Permalink Eye

Occlus turns the saber over in her hands, examining it. Then she ignites it, turns, and casually skewers the overseer.

She leans over to hiss in his ear, "This is for your interference." The overseer slumps to the floor as she pulls out the blade, deactivates it, and hands it back to Nariveth.

"Ready to leave?"

Permalink Eye

... Nariveth is pretty okay with this! She didn't like his interference, either! Or his petty preference for the psycho!

She takes the lightsaber.

"Yes."

Permalink Eye

"This way to the shuttle, then." And off they go. The shuttle is waiting for them, and the guards at the pad bow respectfully to Occlus as the two board.

"Anything to say about your final trial?"

Permalink Eye

She considers.

"I think I need to work on resisting others' Force techniques," she observes. "He did manage to shock me with lightning."

Permalink Eye

"Resistance to Force techniques, in the general case, usually comes down to a question of strength. It can help if you know that the attack is coming, but a sufficient power disparity can overwhelm even the most complete preparations."

Permalink Eye

Nod. "Good to know. Though I don't know how I rate on the typical Sith power scale, I only had other acolytes to compare myself against."

Permalink Eye

"That is the sort of thing you will pick up over time. I would not make a very good comparison, my strength is extraordinarily atypical."

Permalink Eye

Nod. "I'll pay attention."

Pause.

"... Also, is it possible I could get or make a different lightsaber?"

Permalink Eye

"Entirely possible. When we get to the ship, I will give you a list of instructions on how to do so."

Permalink Eye

Nariveth smiles, and nods.

"Thank you."

Should she ask about Thanaton now, or later..

Permalink Eye

The shuttle comes to a stop, and the airlock hisses open.

"My ship is this way." They go across the bay, take a turbolift down two floors, and here is the correct docking tube. Occlus enters her codes and the ship door unlocks and cycles open.

Occlus's crew is waiting in the main area of the ship. "Everyone, this is my new apprentice, Nariveth. Nariveth, this is everyone. The tall one is Khem Val, the short one is Lieutenant Drellik of the Reclamation Service, and the brown one is Andronikos Revel."

Permalink Eye

She inclines her head, smiling with amusement at the descriptions.

"Hello. Pleasure to meet all of you."

Permalink Eye

//This one is small and soft, my master// the Dashade rumbles. //You should allow me to eat it.//

Lieutenant Drellik is smiling cheerfully. "Hello indeed. It is my true honor to make your acquaintance!"

Andronikos snorts. "Yeah, what he said."

Permalink Eye

"There will be no eating of my apprentice, monster. Pirate, prepare for departure. Our next destination is Dromund Kaas."

Andronikos nods, and heads for the cockpit.

Permalink Eye

... Nariveth looks at Khem Val, raising an eyebrow.

"Surely there are better meals than I. Don't you know red hair gives indigestion?"

The academy has sort of done weird things to her ability to be intimidated.

Permalink Eye

//Your hair is of little consequence. Shadow Killers do not get indigestion.//

 

"Uh, Sith?" Andronikos calls back. "We've got an incoming transmission. Frequency reads as Thanaton's personal."

Permalink Eye

"Bantha shit. I was hoping for more time..."

She gestures at the three still standing around the holoterminal. "Everyone, out of the way. Pirate, put it through to the main terminal."

Mask of calm assurance, on. Thoughts, guarded. Showtime.

Permalink Eye

Thanaton's image appears. He regards her cooly.

"Greetings, Lord Occlus. You've been busy, I see."

Permalink Eye

"Darth Thanaton. This is unexpected. To what do I owe the pleasure?"

Permalink Eye

His eyes narrow.

"Let's skip the games, shall we? I had to put up with Zash's saccharine 'ignorance,' I'd rather skip your brand of it as well. In fact, I'd like to end this now. I declare a Kaggath."

Permalink Eye

"I accept. Location?"

Permalink Eye

"Corellia."

Permalink Eye

"Very well." Subtle handflick to cut the comm. "Pirate, plot a course for Corellia. I want us gone as soon I'm done making arrangements."

Occlus types a pair of frequencies into the terminal. Two small figures appear, one grey-haired man in a Navy uniform and one red-skinned man in Sith robes. "Moff Pyron, Darth Vowrawn. Our timetable has accelerated. Thanaton has just called the Kaggath on Corellia."

"Corellia? I can have my forces there in sixteen hours," says the moff. "How long will you be?"

"I am departing Korriban as we speak, no more than twenty hours."

"Good, that will give us ample time to begin deployment," says Vowrawn. "Darth Decimus is in overall command of that front, I will liase with him and determine a suitable headquarters."

"It is important that I be seen to contribute meaningfully to an Imperial victory while we are there. Pyron, commit the bulk of your forces to the main battle, but hold at least two companies in reserve, under my personal command. Vowrawn will find out from Decimus where you are needed."

"Very good, my lord." The three participants exchange nods, and the terminal goes blank again.

Permalink Eye

Nariveth is taking this all in with utmost composure. She did get a warning about this, didn't she? Though she's kicking herself for not connecting the acolyte pair's warning to Occlus's research into a Kaggath, then she would already understand what's going on besides 'the two Sith are about to kill each other in the middle of a literal warzone.'

She doesn't ask a question of Lord Occlus because it seems like she just became very busy, but she does sort of dryly raise her eyebrows in a 'And what am I to do during this?' manner.

Permalink Eye

"It seems the matter of your lightsaber just became rather more urgent, apprentice. I will go gather my spares and put together a list of instructions for you to follow. Lieutenant Drellik will show you his crystal collection, pick two. One for color, one for focus."

Drellik beams. "Oh, how exciting! Right this way, if you please!"

Permalink Eye

Nod. She holds up a hand to Drellik to wait a moment.

"I'll have some questions later, about the specifics of.... this... but for now does the focus do something in particular that I need to look out for? The lightsaber seems a touch more urgent."

Permalink Eye

"All of the crystals in the lieutenant's collection are suitable. He has a discerning eye. Trust your instincts."

Permalink Eye

She nods again, then turns to follow the lieutenant.

Let's see some crystals!

Permalink Eye

Talos Drellik is very enthusiastic about his crystals. He pulls out a case of about thirty or so to let Nariveth handle, and is more than happy to explain the history or formation process or cultural significance of any of them.

Permalink Eye

Well, she actually finds this terribly entertaining and will probably ask him about them later, because she has never heard any of this information before in her life and it sounds cool, but they're on something of a schedule. So he'll have to keep that to a minimum for now. ... Probably just to the ones she picks, because it might actually be useful instead of just interesting.

"One moment, the focus seems more important than the color. This shouldn't take long."

And she closes her eyes and slows her breathing and reaches out towards the crystals with the Force.

A few of them feel - well, it reminds her a bit of Korriban, but on a much smaller scale, and a lot less permanently. Little traces of - she's not quite inclined to call it evil, but little traces of something that resembles Korriban. These are the odd ones out, though. Most of them feel like - looking through a glass that twists the light in some subtle way, hard to pick out unless someone's paying attention. She has a moment of debate over whether or not it would be thematically appropriate to pick one of the not-quite-evil ones to try and redeem it. And then she decides that this is her lightsaber and she is not beholden to redeeming inanimate objects if she doesn't want to. She reaches out to pick the one that feels nicest to her, and figures out the one she wants near instantly. The way it's structured feels soothing. Tidy. She likes it.

And so, she reaches out and picks it up, then opens an eye to peer at it. It looks like an ordinary yellow crystal. She asks Drellik for an overview of some of the more interesting things about it while she goes to pick out a color crystal.

Permalink Eye

"Oh yes, that is one of my favorites! I picked it up at this marvelous little shop in Kaas City, way down near the bottom. It's somewhat dingy but they quite often get the most fascinating shipments. Apparently, it was once part of the royal regalia for the Druckenwell duchy. Thought to be lost centuries ago, a pirate attack or some such, but do you know where they found it? A storeroom in the basement of the palace! Imagine that! Of course, with all their financial troubles lately, they had to put it up for auction..." And so forth. He's rather voluble, once he gets going.

Permalink Eye

Nariveth finds crystal storytime incredibly charming, especially when her last few days have been spent frightened for her life and running around in Sith tombs. Storytime about crystals is relatively ordinary. She's smiling faintly after the third sentence.

She picks out a deep purple colored crystal for the blade color.

Permalink Eye

"Ah, now that one I actually found on one of my digs, not professionally of course, just one of my little recreational exercises. I was on vacation on this delightful little world called Ai-oni, the natives are somewhat primitive but they brew exquiste teas, the best I've ever had. I had it cut and polished as a memento. But if you're satisfied with your choices, we should go meet Lord Occlus in the cargo bay."

Permalink Eye

"Yes - thank you very much for your help. And the conversation."

To Lord Occlus!

Permalink Eye

Who is waiting by a workbench! The internal components of several sabers are neatly arranged on one side of it, next to a sheet of flimsiplast.

"You have selected your crystals, then? Good. Traditionally, the construction of a lightsaber is a three-day process, with fasting and rituals and meditations and so forth. We do not have that much time, so I have condensed it. In summary, you must hold the ideal of the finished form in your mind while you manipulate the pieces. As each slots into place, focus your will and impress the ideal form on to it."

Permalink Eye

Solemn nod.

"Sounds straight forward enough, though I'd like to study and understand the ideal form so I can get it exactly right."

Permalink Eye

"The ideal form is what you, specifically, want your lightsaber to be. Within the constraints of available materials." She gestures at the pieces on the workbench.

Permalink Eye

"Oh. All right, fair enough. I thought the internal workings would be more troublesome."

Permalink Eye

"All the difficult engineering problems have already been solved. I will leave you then, and see that you are not disturbed."

Permalink Eye

She nods, and she sits with the lightsaber components in front of her, and she thinks about what kind of lightsaber she would want to have. Her first step is to look at her Sith lightsaber to get a good feel of all of the major components in a typical lightsaber. Even if she doesn't like it, it might have some salvagable aesthetic choices. After a bit of peering, it turns out that it mostly doesn't, but looking at it makes her think about all of the things she does want, which is just as good.

And then she begins. She finds to her surprise that she isn't actually lacking in wanted materials; she can get everything she wants out of what's in front of her, right now. Mind, she has to rip off a lot of extraneous things, because her lightsaber is going to be a thing of beautiful elegant efficiency, but that's quite all right. If it gets her something she adores in the end, she'll rip off all of the extraneous sharp bits.

 

Time falls away. It's odd, how this sort of thing leads one to getting carried away, but not unpleasantly so. She's working. She might have been tempted to scrape together something not-awful earlier, but if she's going to go to all of this trouble to make herself her lightsaber, she's damn well going to make herself a lightsaber.

At the end of it, she has exactly what she wants. It's the perfect length - with the way she was taught to use a sword (it feels like ages ago, even though it was yesterday) it's built to favor being held in one hand, but with room for both if it comes down to direct strength. The body of the hilt is textures to prevent it slipping in her grip, without being uncomfortable to hold for long periods of time or hard to clean or ugly. She's balanced black and silver durasteel to keep it from being entirely a single color - bands of black and silver, curving into one another smoothly and breaking up the simple cylinder shape. It flares in and then back out, to warn her if her hand starts to slip in the wrong direction, and then actively stop it if it does before her fingers get burned off, while still looking - well, pretty. In her opinion, anyway, she supposes the pointless spikes must have looked appealing to someone at some point. To someone else, this lightsaber might look - simple, maybe. But she thinks it looks dignified and economical without looking boring.

When it's all together, she stands, wondering if her lightsaber's about to explode and make her look like an idiot. She turns it on anyway. It does not explode and make her look like an idiot. It works perfectly, its purple blade's hum a softer, more comforting sound than the Sith lightsaber's ever was. It feels correct in her hand. The right weight, the right diameter, the right length. She's proud that she made something that she can find this beautiful.

Then, because she can't have any momentous moment go without being spoiled, her stomach grumbles in annoyance and she belatedly realizes she hasn't eaten anything at all today. She turns off her lightsaber, clipping it onto her belt where it belongs. After neatening up the leftover materials of lightsaber building, she goes looking for a place to scrounge up food.

Permalink Eye

Andronikos and Lieutenant Drellik are in the galley, chatting idly. Andronikos waves when he sees her.

"Hey, there's the new kid. How'd the saber turn out?"

Permalink Eye

"Hey. I'm really happy with it," she chirps, pleased.

She starts scrounging for food. Systematically. The Sith hungers, damn it, and she will be fed.

"How long was I in there? I completely lost track of time."

Permalink Eye

"About eight hours. We'll get to the Corellian system in another ten or so. Here, let me heat you up some of these Iwani cakes. They've got cloudberries in. Bosslady ordered a bunch a couple days ago for some reason."

Permalink Eye

"Oh, thank you." She gets out of his way so he can feed her.

"Eight hours," she muses. "Damn. I didn't think it'd take that long, I might have put up with the stupid pointy saber for a while if it meant I got eight more hours of panic training in..."

Permalink Eye

"Ah, I wouldn't worry about it too much. Bosslady'll keep you close, no doubt. Here you go."

Permalink Eye

"Thank you." Food! Nom.

"Sho 'm-" She recalls that she cannot chew and speak at the same time, no matter how much she wants to, and swallows. "So, am I going to be a big walking target or the equivalent to a wallflower or...?"

Permalink Eye

"You will be a target, yes. All of my assets will be, to one degree or another. The Kaggath is a test of more than just an individual's strength, it measures their power base as well."

When did Occlus get here? Nobody knows. Andronikos tosses a cake at her and she snatches it out of the air with the Force and begins eating.

Permalink Eye

Nariveth should probably find that creepy, but honestly, she's really just glad her questions are getting answered and she's eating food. Nom. This time she doesn't speak and chew at the same time.

"All right, but is it likely to be just people trying to kill me, or am I likely to also have to deal with, 'Betray Occlus and join me and we can rule the galaxy together'?"

Permalink Eye

"He may attempt that, but given your background I would advise against taking him up on the offer."

Permalink Eye

"Agreed based on current evidence, if you'd wanted an apprentice as cannon fodder you would have picked the idiot, easier to manipulate, Thanaton and his minions have no such displays in their behavior. And - yeah, that other part, if that's a factor." Slightly annoyed nom.

Permalink Eye

"It's a large part of why he takes issue with me, for you it would be no different."

Permalink Eye

Blink. She digests that. ... Yep, she's pretty okay with having this Sith be her teacher. Though, admittedly, that could be leaving out some key information and she doubts it's that simple.

"Ah. Yes, that would be very annoying."

Permalink Eye

"In any case, I intend that you will stay close to me while we are on-planet, or Khem Val if circumstances dictate that you cannot accompany me. You will be as safe as it will be possible to be."

Permalink Eye

Nod. "Thanks. I'll stay out of the way and not do anything stupid."

Permalink Eye

"Do not sell yourself short. I expect that you will prove useful in some fashion, before this is over."

Permalink Eye

... Smile.

"I didn't say I wouldn't do anything, did I?"

Permalink Eye

"You said you would 'stay out of the way'. That phrasing connotes a degree of passivity."

Permalink Eye

Snort.

"Fair enough. How does the Republic factor into this? Because I am having trouble understanding why he would purposefully fight you and your forces in the middle of a warzone."

Permalink Eye

"It gives both he and I the opportunity to prove ourselves as champions of the Empire. I have recently manipulated events such that his patriotism has been called into question, and I will need the reputation if I am to take his place on the Dark Council after I kill him. Besides which, the Sith thrive on conflict. Chaos breeds opportunity, and battlefields are chaotic by nature. The Republic itself is irrelevant, its only purpose so far as we are concerned is to provide a backdrop for our confrontation."

Occlus's cake has mysteriously disappeared! She wave a hand and one floats off of Nariveth's plate and over to her.

Permalink Eye

Nariveth peers at Occlus. She'll ignore the food thievery, growling at a Sith Lord about taking delicious cake from her plate seems suicidal and petty, especially when there's a whole entire galley to raid.

"... Did you manipulate him into staging it on Corellia?" she wonders, with dawning realization.

Permalink Eye

"I planted the seeds of the idea. Corellia was one of several possibilities I was prepared for."

Permalink Eye

She nods and chews thoughtfully, head spinning. She can think of several possible reasons for that, but she's not sure which combination of them applies. It probably has a lot to do with Thanaton's resources as a Dark Councilor -

...

Hold on. Back up. She missed processing some of the nouns used earlier. Take his place on the Dark Council? Thanaton is on the Dark Council. And Occlus. Is planning to take his place. And from the sound of it is probably going to manage it, too. Unless Thanaton proves himself to be a tactical genius or master manipulator, of course, but Occlus seems to be very smart. Smarter than what Nariveth would estimate the average Sith to be, though she can't say she's an expert in Sith intellect. Occlus certainly doesn't seem deluded, nor unprepared. Perhaps it's apprentice-flavored favoritism, but Nariveth doesn't expect her to lose.

Which means that it is likely that Nariveth will be apprentice to a Dark Councilor.

She needs a minute to take in this information. Her face is frozen, expressionless, and her Iwani cake held motionless halfway to her mouth.

Permalink Eye

Occlus notes Nariveth's change in demeanor, and stretches out with the Force to determine what her apprentice is thinking.

 

Ah. Well, better she get this revelation over with now, rather than at some potentially awkward future time. Occlus will allow her time to process.

Permalink Eye

Well, first off, running off to the Outer Rim is just not happening. The Sith would find a betrayal from a Dark Councilor's apprentice very insulting. She wouldn't last a day, if she lasted that. Maybe she could go running to the Jedi or Republic, but she's got zilch to offer the Republic, and strange mystic groups she hasn't had any interaction with sounds... questionable. They could very well decide that her three days of exposure to the Sith means she's a write off because she's some flavor of psychically tainted, and then completely fail to protect her when the Sith assassins show up. Not to mention trying to get to them sounds - well, frankly, impossible. She only vaguely knows about the worlds they're located on - Tython, she thinks, was the major one? Obviously their temple on Coruscant is a pile of rubble, so the easy-to-get-to one is just not an option. To make matters worse, she has no idea where Tython even is. All she knows is it's out of the way. This is quite inconvenient for her, because out of the way places are kind of hard to hitch a ride to. Leaving time for the aforementioned Sith assassins.

And besides. Running now would greatly hurt Occlus's efforts, and, well. She's done absolutely nothing to deserve that.

Okay. So. She's going to be apprentice to one of the major political leaders of the Empire, no don't freak out right now, shh, think practicalities. It's going to be a political abyss. ... A murdery political abyss. And she's been thrown headfirst into it, with zero training on political anything. So she needs to learn very very quickly. First up: run over your major immediate threats, besides Lord Occlus.

"... Do you have other apprentices, my lord?" she asks, after unfreezing herself and taking another bite of cake.

Permalink Eye

Occlus doesn't smile, because that would betray her eavesdropping. But she wants to. This one is intelligent. It might even be worth going out of her way to keep hold of her. Something to consider, after the Thanaton situation has been resolved.

"You are the first."

Permalink Eye

Okay, so no apprentices that will try to manipulate her in their favor or be insulted about her existence or just straight up murder her so they're the favorite, that's - good. Less to worry about.

Though it begs the question of why a powerful Sith that's literally about to make a move for a seat on the Dark Council doesn't have any other apprentices. Because really, it makes more sense to have had one before moving against Thanaton, have the apprentice actually definitively helpful instead of 'I have three days of training and a lot of adrenaline fueled creativity, let's see what I can break,' which is probably not the ideal for power bases. Nebulous power versus concrete power. But clearly Occlus doesn't want her for her ability to break things with her mind, there must be some other reason. Political move with the slavery thing? That doesn't seem like it would make many friends, but maybe the actual workings of the Dark Council will shock her and they're all ex-slaves who think slavery's cool because it weeds out the weak or something? ... That makes no sense, at all, do better, Nariveth.

"Really?" she asks, genuinely surprised. "May I ask why now for an apprentice? Not that I'm complaining..."

Another Sith might have wanted cannon fodder to send out to break things, and then where would she be? ... She might have managed to survive anyway, she's kind of stubborn that way, but it would have been harder. And more traumatizing, probably.

Permalink Eye

"Taking an apprentice from the academy on Korriban is a mark of distinction among the Sith. It shows you have strength, and the discipline to instill that strength in another. Korriban is the ancestral homeworld of the Sith and any who survive its crucible are considered to be inherently more worthy than those who have not been tested by it. Mastering one who has been so tested proves you are better still."

Permalink Eye

"Ah. Okay." So she's a political move. ... She's okay with that. Slightly weirded out that she's considered a proper distinctive Sith after three days, but she can turn people to paste with her mind, so, fair enough.

"Are there certain Sith I should look out for? Certain tactics I should be prepared for?"

Permalink Eye

"Every Sith is at least a potential enemy. For the immediate future, the only ones you should have to worry about are Thanaton and his three apprentices. By custom, the only forces involved in the Kaggath are the two primary disputants, their immediate apprentices, and any non-Sith underlings they have in the area. Thanaton will certainly make a play for you, eliminating your opponent's apprentice can count for a lot, but he is more likely to try for a direct assassination than to attempt to turn you. Alert me if you receive any strange holomessages, and do not go off on your own. If I had had more time to train you myself, your defenses would be stronger. As matters stand, staying near is your best option."

Permalink Eye

Nariveth nods, firmly. She will definitely be sticking by Lord Occlus, anything else seems crazy. Even if the strange holomessage is from apparent Jedi that want to 'save her,' because seriously, this is a Dark Councilor. It would be incredibly shocking if he never tried to deceive her.

"Hm. In the academy, I was addressed by two acolytes who specifically asked if I was part of your group, and then told me to, quote, 'not to try very hard,' and that Thanaton was going to kill you and anyone associated with you. I don't know enough about the situation to say if it was a play or not, but I do think you'd know better than I. They didn't seem very bright, anyway."

Permalink Eye

"Thanaton certainly had an agent on Korriban watching me, the timing of his challenge is proof enough. That could have been an attempt to dissuade you, but on the other hand, our conflict is reasonably well-known and some overseers are known to gossip. In any case, you are here now, so I wouldn't worry about it."

Permalink Eye

"I wasn't, really, just. I am not experienced in Sith power struggles, so I think I'd prefer to be overcautious over... not."

Permalink Eye

"An attitude like that just might let you survive long enough to become experienced."

Permalink Eye

"You are a bastion of optimism," says Nariveth, dry.

Permalink Eye

"I have survived all my learning experiences to date. I am entitled to a little optimism."

Permalink Eye

Smile.

"Okay, that's my major questions answered, I should probably go get some sleep - anything you recommend I should do to prepare before I go sleep? ... Where even am I sleeping, actually."

Permalink Eye

"Down the hall, second door on the left. The big bunk is Khem Val's, otherwise you may have your pick. I will wake you when we arrive, if you are not up before then."

Permalink Eye

Nariveth nods, grabs a final cake and turns to go, then pauses.

"... Oh, do you want to see my lightsaber, first?"

Permalink Eye

"If I may." Occlus holds out her hand.

Permalink Eye

And here is Nariveth's lightsaber!

She's terribly proud of it.

Permalink Eye

Occlus turns it over in her hands, inspecting it. She ignites the blade, and nods at the purple glow. Turning it off, she floats it back to Nariveth.

"Fine craftsmanship. Well done."

Permalink Eye

"Thank you," says Nariveth, ducking her head a little. She takes her lightsaber out of the air and clips it back to her belt. Is it weird to have a lot of affection for one's lightsaber? Eh, of the weird affections available, it's not the creepiest. She doesn't like it in a murder way, anyway.

"Good night, then."

She heads down the hall to the second door on the left. She has the presence of mind to remove her boots and outer robe and arrange them neatly by her chosen sleeping location, but after that she is out like a light. It's been a long day. The next is probably going to be longer.

 


In about eight hours, she stirs awake. She doesn't have any experience sleeping in, so why should she start now? Up she gets.

Permalink Eye

Andronikos is in the galley again.

"Hey there, kid. You hungry?"

Permalink Eye

... She actually doesn't take offense to being called kid. She's not used to it, but she doesn't find it objectionable.

"Hey. I am! Are you going to feed me?"

Permalink Eye

"That's about half my job description, yeah. What d'you like in your omelettes? We've got some of just about everything."

Permalink Eye

Oh dear, someone is going to have to explain to him that she was a slave and her dietary choices have been few and far between, and as a result her preferences are pretty nonexistent. Well. Aside from 'has calories' and 'will not make her sick.'

"I'm not picky. ... Nothing spicy, please."

Not her, though! Screw that.

Permalink Eye

"All right, one with everything bar the Kuati peppers, coming right up."

 

And here it is!

Permalink Eye

"Thank you!"

Food! She digs in. It's a bit bizarre, but she still can't really bring herself to care. It assumingly has some mixture of the following: calories, protein, and vitamins. And it's better than ration bars and gloop. So she'll take it.

"How long until we're planetside?" she asks, between bites.

Permalink Eye

"We'll be coming out of hyperspace in a hour or so, then there'll be a bit of fiddling to get us down. Last reports said that the space battle had mostly died down, so there shouldn't be too much trouble."

Permalink Eye

"So, time for me to run to the refresher and be somewhere in the arena of presentable. Okay. ... Are there extra clothes for me or am I working with just what I brought?"

Permalink Eye

"Check the cargo bay for a case with your name on it. I think I heard her say something about spare robes..."

Permalink Eye

"Oh, good. I'll go looking."

But first, she has an omelette to finish.

She doesn't have any questions to ask and doesn't feel like chatting, so unless Andronikos has something to talk about, she'll just eat in silence.

Permalink Eye

If she doesn't want to talk, Andronikos is not going to force it.

Permalink Eye

In that case, once her omelette's finished she thanks him again, puts up her plate and utensils, and heads off to look in the cargo bay for a case with her name on it.

Permalink Eye

There it is, conveniently near the door! It is filled with a selection of robes in her size. She may have her choice of black, black, or if she's feeling bold, black.

Permalink Eye

Well, she's a traditionalist, so she'll have to go for the classic color of black.

She has a shower, rebraids her hair so it's as neat as possible, and then because she's still got a bit of time before it's time to go, she goes to see if there's a place to scrounge up a bandage or something for her singular injury from the academy. Even if it's just a scratch, she'd rather avoid it getting infected. Or reopening and bleeding everywhere, or something.

Permalink Eye

There's a small med-bay next to the refresher. She can find a kolto patch of approximately the rght size in one of the drawers.

While she's there, the realspace reversion chime sounds.

Permalink Eye

Excellent, that'll take care of things neatly.

At the realspace reversion chime she goes look for an Occlus to shadow.

Permalink Eye

Occlus is at the helm, talking to Andronikos.

"...we'll land at High Command, leave the ship there and rendezvous with Pyron."

Permalink Eye

Well, Nariveth will just be over here. She expects Occlus to already know she's present, there's no need for her to interrupt anything.

Permalink Eye

The landing proceeds without incident.

"Pirate, you and Lieutenant Drellik will stay on-board. Don't let anyone steal it."

"Right."

"Apprentice, you and Khem Val will accompany me." And off to the airlock!

Permalink Eye

To the airlock!

Nariveth feels nervous and a little extraneous. She logically understands that the safest place to be is near Lord Occlus, but illogically she would like to hide on the ship and not leave until the Kaggath's over. But that's not happening, so instead she stretches out with the Force to sense the area around them. Lord Occlus likely has a much better handle on things than she does, but that's no reason for her not to keep an eye out.

Permalink Eye

The only person in the docking bay besides the three of them is a man in Imperial uniform. He comes over to the group.

"Lord Occlus. Sergeant Heffin, at your service. Moff Pyron sent me to bring you to his command post. Is this all of your group?"

Occlus senses no deception from the man. "Yes. Lead on, sergeant." They are conducted outside to a speeder, which the sergeant pilots to Pyron's base in Axial Park.

Permalink Eye

It's probably a good idea to radiate an aura of calm confidence to help make Lord Occlus look more in control of the situation, so she does that.

And then, because she's got nothing else to do, she works on sensing emotions while she's doing the equivalent of following Lord Occlus around and looking pretty. Almost more than anything, she wants information, and as long as she's not getting in anyone's way she'd like to collect it.

Permalink Eye

Occlus is calm, with an edge of anticipation. She has been waiting a long time for this, and she is ready for it. When they get to the base, the military personnel are - soldiers in a warzone. They're busy, under stresses, but they've been trained for this and they know what they're doing. Occlus goes over to where the Moff and his advisors are gathered at a map table, discussing strategies.

"Gentlemen. What news of our enemy?"

Permalink Eye

"My lord," says Moff Pyron, bowing. "Lord Thanaton has wasted no time. He's cut off major transport from this sector, and his whereabouts are currently unknown, though we have more complete information on his apprentices and several of his allies."

Permalink Eye

"What alternate transportation is available?"

Permalink Eye

"We have a few, and I'll have a list sent to you, but the most intriguing are a pair of Republic dropships captured by Darth Charnus."

Permalink Eye

Occlus smiles. "Yes, I can see the potential. Does Charnus already have plans for them, or can we convince him to give them up?"

Permalink Eye

"We believe he can be convinced, he has no love for Darth Thanaton either, but he will want several of our more elite squads at his service in exchange to shore up one of his more ragged flanks. "

Permalink Eye

"Send as little as you can without risking a collapse, but I want those shuttles. What of the apprentices?"

Permalink Eye

"Thanaton has Darth Kallous with his newer apprentice, he's been keeping both of them away from a large part of the fighting. We can surmise that he's keeping his younger apprentice in safety, and his strongest in reserve. More importantly, he has placed Lord Skar in charge of the 115th at the Islands Outpost - it's through there that our transportation has been cut off, the outpost has control over the rocket trams in and out of the Incorporation Islands."

Permalink Eye

... 'Kallous'? 'Skar'? Really? Really? It's probably a bad idea to write the both of them off as useless, but it's really tempting. She hopes that she does not have to go by a name that idiotic at some point in time, because wow.

Permalink Eye

"Is it only our forces affected, or has Thanaton disrupted the entire network?"

Permalink Eye

"When it was the previous commander acting under Thanaton's orders, it was only our forces, but putting Lord Skar in charge has ultimately disrupted the entire network. He's overzealous and only letting trusted allies access the rocket trams for fear of a sneak attack. We think Thanaton's aware of this, and is hoping that his apprentice's power will win the battle fast enough that the network will barely be affected, but so far his bet hasn't paid off."

Permalink Eye

"Then Skar will be our first target. Even if he can't point us to Thanaton, restoring normal operation of the trams will gain us goodwill with the main Imperial force. Do we have eyes on his base?"

Permalink Eye

"We have eyes on the outside and troop movements of the place, but nothing inside." He hesitates, then presses on. "... My lord, it is also possible that Skar is bait."

Permalink Eye

"Yes, but it is bait we must respond to. Without freedom of movement, our options are severely limited. Do you have any indications of what manner of trap it may be?"

Permalink Eye

"We suspect it might have something to do with Kallous or Thanaton doing something we can't respond to while we're dealing with Skar."

Permalink Eye

"Leak Kallous's location to the Republic. Present it as a base where our starfighters are being repaired or some other credible threat. Let them distract him while we move on Skar."

Permalink Eye

The moff digests this, then nods.

"It will be done, my lord."

Permalink Eye

"Bring up the layout of Skar's base."

Planning! Strategizing!

Permalink Eye

The Islands Outpost is currently under Imperial control, but it's highly contested; the Republic is trying to regain control of the trams. The battle's been a long and bloody stalemate. Skar was supposed to tip the balance in the Empire's favor, but since he hasn't, it's up to Occlus and her alliance.

Their plan is thus: they will draw the 115th and the Republic into a major battle at this strategic location via subterfuge that is in the same vein as Kallous's location - the Republic will be under the impression that they're weakening the Islands Outpost by attacking Kallous. Occlus and several squads of Imperial troops will be sneaking in via the Republic dropships in the chaos. Then, the dropships will drop Occlus and the troops at one of the Republic's flanks, where the troops will join the 115th in battle and Occlus will get to the outpost itself to handle Skar. The Republic will be the biggest problem Occlus will face before Skar himself: Imperials are smart enough to run at the sight of an angry sith, and will follow whatever orders she gives them, so they shouldn't give her much trouble. Skar will be forced into a corner - he will either have to obviously hurt the war effort by ordering Imperial troops to attack a sith lord, or will have nothing between him and Occlus. Moff Pyron requests that when Skar chooses to be selfish, Occlus tries to minimize casualties. Then, after Occlus has killed Skar, she'll be needed there to keep the troops organized until one of Pyron's commanders can be safely transported to the outpost.

Meanwhile, this is how they will be leaking Kallous's location, and this is the transportation they're setting up to get Occlus to Thanaton's location if she extracts it from Skar quickly enough. It will be busy during the beginning of the battle to defend the Islands Outpost, but will be kept mostly out of harm's way and be ready for Occlus when she needs it.

And then the information is leaked and the Republic plays right into their hands and it's time for everyone to get onto the dropships and go.

Permalink Eye

En route, Occlus is giving last minute orders.

"Apprentice, stay near Khem Val. Khem, you are to protect her. Her safety is your highest priority."

//Yes, my master.//

"The two of you will skirt around the edge of the main battle as much as possible. I will cut straight through to the Imperial lines, and meet you near the entrance and we will go in together. Once inside, stay on guard, but don't attack unless they move first. I want to keep the garrison as intact as possible, Skar is our primary target here, not any of his men."

Permalink Eye

Nariveth nods.

... They're in a private room, none of the troops can overhear her ask some stupid questions. Time to ask some stupid questions.

"So um. Lightsabers do deflect blaster bolts, right? Is there a technique for helping me do that or will I be figuring that out as I go?"

Permalink Eye

"Yes they can, but it does require some practice to do reliably. Have your lightsaber out, and trust your instincts, but remember that dodging or using Khem Val as a shield are perfectly acceptable options."

Permalink Eye

"And ones I'll favor over deflecting them, if Khem Val's blaster bolt proof. But extra tools in the arsenal, and all. It could very well come up."

Permalink Eye

"Any other pressing concerns?"

Permalink Eye

"I assume Khem can, uh, eat a Jedi if one shows up and goes, 'Sith! Fight me'?"

Permalink Eye

Khem places a hand over his stomach and says, //I would relish the chance. It has been long since last I ate.//

He seems to mean this in a disturbingly literal fashion.

Permalink Eye

... She hopes she doesn't have to watch.

"Okay then, no further questions."

Permalink Eye

"Very well."

Occlus closes her eyes and begins summoning up her full power. She thinks of Thanaton, and forms her hatred of him into a writhing knot at the center of her being, and draws deeply on the Force through it. Power crystallizes around her hatred. When she can hold no more, she approaches the partitions in her mind that contain the passengers whose essence she has bound, and lowers the barriers just enough to draw from their capacity to touch the Force as well. She does not permit them to manifest fully. Today she requires only their power, not any of their insight. The extra Force surges through her body. If she still inhabited her old one, it would be quite painful, but the new one was designed with channeling this energy in mind.

If before Occlus was a rock in a stream, now she is a swirling maelstrom of Force energy. All shall bow before her might, or be consumed. Small flickers of lightning play randomly across her body. Her eyes glow with an eerie purple light, and ghostly afterimages trail her movements. When she speaks, her voice has resonant, echoey quality.

"I will go first, and draw fire. Once I am clear, follow at speed."

Permalink Eye

Nariveth nods, a little awestruck. That is the power of Lord Occlus? Thanaton is screwed. And Nariveth is - well, not jealous, jealous is not the correct word, but she firmly and resolutely wants that.

Permalink Eye

The dropship doors open, and Occlus steps out and rises into the air on a cushion of Force. She scans the battlefield. Are there any Jedi present, and where are the largest concentrations of Republic soldiers?

Permalink Eye

The largest concentrations of Republic soldiers are to the north and to the west. There are two Jedi present; one is with the west group of Republic soldiers and seems to be leading them, the other seems to be flitting around the battlefield at top speed, looking for tempting targets to strike.

Permalink Eye

Occlus can be a tempting target! She slaps the flitter to the ground with a heavy hand of Force energy, and heads in their direction. She electrocutes any targets of opportunity she passes on her way.

Permalink Eye

... The Jedi calls her fellow on the comm system, and then attempts to hold Occlus off from the Republic troops long enough for help to arrive.

She doesn't make it five minutes.

Permalink Eye

No, she doesn't. Occlus doesn't even deign to draw her saber. Is the other one still in a cluster of troops?

Permalink Eye

Yep.

(He's trying to coordinate efforts to keep their soldiers away from the Sith Lord, and get a squad of Jedi in to take her down, he doesn't think he can do it on his own.)

Permalink Eye

Oh he is so, so right. Occlus steps up into the air further to get a better angle, thrusts out both her hands, and rains downs a truly ridiculous quantity of lightning. Sometimes she really enjoys her job.


When the group is reduced to charred, smoking corpses, Occlus looks for the entrance to Skar's outpost. And how's her apprentice doing?

Permalink Eye

The Jedi takes much longer to die than his men, and even manages to make it out of the first lightning storm alive, but all men die eventually. Especially when blasted with enough lightning.

Permalink Eye

Her apprentice is doing fine! She made a beeline for Imperial troops, and they're giving her no trouble. For the most part, she's staying out of any and all fights, but at one point she had the initiative to trip a Republic soldier with a rocket launcher at a very precise time. The Republic soldier and most of the Republic troops around him are now slightly exploded, but Nariveth isn't interested in displaying a repeat performance. She's heading to the outpost.

Permalink Eye

Then assuming the Imperials do not question her right to pass, Occlus will meet Nariveth there.

Permalink Eye

Imperials saw Occlus's displays of power. They are not questioning a damn thing, she can go where she pleases.

Permalink Eye

And there is Nariveth! She's unharmed, though a little overwhelmed by the warzone.

Permalink Eye

Then Occlus will blast the doors open, just because she can, and enter. Which way to Skar?

Permalink Eye

He's that way!

There are Imperials in the way.

"My lord," says one, in a remarkably clear voice, "We're under orders to..." Pause. "... Nevermind, screw the orders. Never liked him anyway. Men, step aside."

And now they are not in the way!

Permalink Eye

Clever of him. He gets a smile as Occlus walks past. Anyone else between her and the target?

Permalink Eye

There are a few, but they are amenable to persuasion, and also Occlus looking terrifying.

And then, in the control room: Skar!

Permalink Eye

"Lord Skar. Two things will see you leave this room alive. First, you tell me where Thanaton is hiding. Second, you restore operation to the rocket trams."

She doesn't expect this to work, but she loses nothing by trying. Power crackles up and down her arms.

Permalink Eye

Lord Skar turns from the console he was staring dramatically at. He draws his lightsaber.

"I'm not yours to order, Lord Occlus."

Permalink Eye

"Not yet."

What the hell, today has been fun and she hasn't used her saber yet. Occlus summons her own to her hand, and it spits forth a bar of crimson flame.

Permalink Eye

"Darth Thanaton wanted me to retreat," says Lord Skar, circling Occlus, "but I think he's being too cautious. I think you're not as scary as you think you are."

Permalink Eye

Nariveth is just going to quietly back away from the kill radius. She doesn't doubt that Occlus has good aim, but might as well make it easier to blast him.

A few of Skar's technicians have the same idea.

Permalink Eye

Well, Occlus is just going to have to correct his misapprehensions. She leaps forward and unleashes a barrage of speed-enhanced strikes before Skar can get around her.

Permalink Eye

Skar keeps up better than one would expect him to! He lasts longer than the jedi did, anyway.

Permalink Eye

Occlus is toying with him.

After she's done playing, she rips his blade out of his grasp with a lightning-fast scoop and twirl, then blasts him down to his knees. With her saber pointed at his throat, she says, "You remember what I want. Tell me."

Permalink Eye

 

"... No," he growls.

Permalink Eye

She withdraws her saber, and channels a blast of pain at him, without bothering with lightning as an intermediarary.

"Do you care to rethink your answer?"

Permalink Eye

Lord Skar handles pain well...

... but not that well.

After he's recovered enough to speak: "T-the fuel refinery!"

Permalink Eye

Damn him!

Occlus points a finger at Nariveth, not taking her eyes off Skar. "Comm Pyron, tell him to get a unit of commandos to the fuel refinery now, and I don't care how he does it!"

Back to Skar. "Tell your men to undo whatever they did to the rocket tram. And explain what, exactly, is happening at the refinery."

Permalink Eye

Nariveth nods and goes to do exactly as told. Her voice is sharp and she does not waste time.

Permalink Eye

Skar gets his comm and has his men undo the tram sabotage. He noticeably stalls with explaining the refinery, instead opting to micromanage the tram situation in a bid to buy time.

Permalink Eye

He can have another dose of pain, then. Does that change his demeanor?

Permalink Eye

Yep!

"S-Sabotage, make it look like the R-Republic, force your fleet to, go to, the other refinery under his allies' control. Weaken them."

Permalink Eye

Occlus gestures for Nariveth to relay this to Pyron.

"Do you know anything more specific about the sabotage? Or where Thanaton has his main base?"

Permalink Eye

Nariveth nods and relays this.

Permalink Eye

"N-No, he, said it would be d-delicate." That is a very un-sith-like whimper he's making, there. "He'll kill me."

Permalink Eye

"Consider that I will kill you if you do not tell me. And if you think you know pain now, believe me. We have barely even scratched the surface of what it is possible for you to experience."

Permalink Eye

"But if I don't tell you," he hisses, "Thanaton will win the Kaggath and avenge me, and he will hurt you."

Permalink Eye

Sigh. Clearly this could take a while. Zap to the base of Skar's skull to knock him out temporarily.

"Apprentice, you are in command here while I finish the interrogation. Tell Khem to eat anyone who gives you a problem."

Force lift Skar, and carry him to a back room. With a locking door.

Permalink Eye

A week ago she was a slave, now she is commanding an army, what is this. She maybe has a bit of knowledge at how to murder people with her mind, not how to command an army! Who gives command positions to people for having magic powers! Having magic powers does not make someone a brilliant strategist! Or a competent leader! It means you have magic powers! That's it, that's all it means!

"Yes, my lord," she says anyway, because while this is messed up, surely she has to be smarter than Skar, and things will be a little bit screwed if no one is in charge. No use freaking out about it, she has work to do.

She requests that Moff Pyron retrieve his favored commander to funnel orders to her to give. Moff Pyron is surprised, but is happy to provide. While he's doing that, Nariveth hunts down most of Skar's command group - they're not hard to find. One of them wastes time begging for her life, Nariveth tells her to stuff it and redeem herself by helping to win this battle. Another one swears allegiance to Darth Thanaton, and Nariveth coldly stares at him and then asks if he would like to say that again, while sparking lightning. Or, perhaps, say that to Lord Occlus.

A scream drifts down the hall from the back room. They all become very pliant after that. She does not require Khem Val's assistance.

They begin frantically debriefing her on the situation, and she relays the broad strokes to the newly retrieved commander. Then she starts getting - suggestions, is the term she's going to call them. Few people are actually willing to tell a sith what to do, instead it's framed as potential ideas and valuable time is wasted trying to make it seem like it's her idea.

After the third time she notices this, Nariveth sighs, then says, "Commander, rest assured that I will not fry you for being competent, or for being smarter than I am, we're in the middle of a war, please stop trying to pretend this is all my idea and just fucking win this battle."

The commander is taken aback, but stops dancing around the issue and starts telling her what to say, and things go much more smoothly.

The Republic forces are in disarray by the time Occlus gets the information out of Skar. It's turning into a rout.

Permalink Eye

Occlus has stopped glowing ominously when she reappears.

"Apprentice, we are returning to the base. Arrange matters such that this area will not fall without you, if you have not already done so. And get someone to dispose of the body back there."

Permalink Eye

"Yes, my lord."

There really isn't very much left to do, but she makes sure things will not fall apart the minute she leaves. The commander that relayed orders through her is en route, anyway, and everything is tidy and ready for him. Including the corpse disposal.

And then all that's done and it's back to shadowing Occlus.

Permalink Eye

They take one of the newly-restored-to-operation rocket tram cars back to Pyron's command center. When they arrive, Occlus goes over to the map table again.

"Moff Pyron. I have a location for Thanaton's base. What news of the fuel refinery?"

Permalink Eye

"Our operatives found and disarmed explosives, but were unable to locate Thanaton himself. We have no proof that he was responsible for the charges, but the refinery is now safe."

Permalink Eye

"Good. His apprentice Skar claimed Thanaton's base to be an abandoned Republic site, in Axial Park, here." She lights up an area on the map. "I want confirmation of this, but be discreet. We don't want to alert our enemy, if this is indeed his lair."

Permalink Eye

"Very good, my lord," says Pyron, nodding. "Is there anything else?"

Permalink Eye

"What of Darth Kallous? Does the Republic still have him pinned?"

Permalink Eye

"Unfortunately, no. His location is now currently unknown."

Permalink Eye

"Remain on guard here, then. It's possible Thanaton could discover our location and send Kallous to attack. While we are waiting for the scouts to report, are there any battles against the Republic that would benefit from my personal attention?"

Permalink Eye

Pyron fetches a list!

There is a battle with a lot of jedi present that could use a good curbstomp, there's a set of troops that have been cut off from transportation and could use a good rescue, and there's a Republic base that could be very useful if it were in Imperial hands instead of Republic ones.

Permalink Eye

Occlus will start with the Jedi. Where are they?

Permalink Eye

There are in this location that Occlus can be brought to via restored rocket tram!

Is her apprentice coming along?

(Her apprentice would not like to come along.)

Permalink Eye

Her apprentice can come along anyway. It will be a character-building experience.

Permalink Eye

Her apprentice does not whine about having to come along, but she thinks character-building experiences that involve being in a warzone can go fall in a black hole.

Permalink Eye

The jedi: are present.

There are a lot of them.

Permalink Eye

Occlus is not going to make Nariveth actually fight, but she does want to be able to keep an eye on her. Khem can take care of any Jedi that think she might be a softer target than Occlus.

It might be slightly problematic if all the Jedi attacked at once, so Occlus will try to engage them singly or in small groups at first.

Permalink Eye

At first, this works! They engage in small groups and then summarily die.

And then the remaining jedi organize together to attempt to take Occlus down.

They bring two jedi masters.

Permalink Eye

It's nice to be appreciated. It'd be nicer if they weren't trying to kill her, but still. Are any of the Jedi between her and her apprentice?

Permalink Eye

Yep. One jedi master and two other people that matter less.

Permalink Eye

She'll deal with those separately, then. Occlus glows very much brighter for a brief moment, then unleashes a massive wave of psychic energy in all directions but towards Nariveth. That should outright kill the weaker ones and at least temporarily disable the other master.

Now for those three. She picks one of the lessers up and throws him at Khem to eat, and starts moving towards the master. Can she kill or neutralize the other with lightning before she closes?

Permalink Eye

Khem smashes his target out of the air, then crushes his throat with a foot.

Permalink Eye

The jedi defends with a clever use of lightsaber; she'll have to stop and blast him more to overpower him.

The thrown jedi doesn't fare as well; he gurgles and then dies.

The master closes as well; she is very fast.

Permalink Eye

How's her footwork? Occlus leaps and uses the Force to push herself up and over the master's head, landing near the other. She launches a quick series of attacks, hoping to push past his defenses before he can react properly.

Permalink Eye

Well it seems to be working pretty well, if not so well as to instantly kill him, but the jedi master intervenes at super-speed before her fellow gets skewered. He backs away, she returns the favor to Occlus with the quick series of attacks.

Permalink Eye

That speed is annoying. Backflip for distance, then reach out with mental tendrils, wrap around the Jedi, and hold. Stop moving, dammit.

Permalink Eye

She struggles! Holding her is going to take a lot of focus.

The other functional jedi decides that while he is maybe a bit screwed, a good time to attempt to stab Occlus is right now when she's distracted. If nothing else he can keep the master alive until the other recovers entirely. Stab attempt!

Permalink Eye

It doesn't take a whole lot of focus to shove him away with an undirected burst of energy. Go away, she'll get back to you once your master is dead.

Occlus advances on the master, saber drawn. Is she stuck enough that Occlus can just strike her head off and have done?

Permalink Eye

Nope, she dramatically pushes Occlus back at the last moment. Or - no, she gets help.

Oh look, the other jedi master is up again. Hi, other jedi master.

Permalink Eye

Sigh. She should have just gone to rescue the incompetent troopers. Time to stop playing, then.

Occlus relaxes the barriers in her mind keeping the ghosts confined, and two ethereal figures coalesce to either side of her. One takes over the job of holding Speedy, and the other applies a similar technique to Newly Awake. Her own focus freed, Occlus proceeds to demonstrate just who, exactly, is the Juyo master around here. Her saber is everywhere at once, flicking left and down and right and left and high wherever she finds an opening.

Permalink Eye

Newly Awake is much stronger in the Force than he appears, and can hold off the ghost well enough to be able to move - he stays entirely on the defensive, but he doesn't immediately die.

Speedy is not so powerful, and without the ability to move, her speed isn't much help. She dies.

The only jedi not being attacked by the sith lord surveys the situation, then runs to the nearest carry-sized stunned jedi to carry off because it is time to get the fuck out.

Permalink Eye

With Speedy dead, the ghost holding her switches its attention to the Jedi attempting to flee. Lightning blast!

Occlus manifests a third ghost, then a fourth. Both turn to the task of slowing and debilitating Occlus's opponent, while she presses the attack.

Permalink Eye

Down goes the jedi attempting to flee.

Newly Awake despairs of being able to flee, himself, though he would dearly like to. He accepts his imminent death with grace, his only regrets being the people he was not able to save. ... But maybe he can bring that number up by one. Anything he says to Occlus will be a complete waste of breath, but her apprentice is not so resolute.

"The dark side, will, twist you," he calls, struggling to keep up his strength against three ghosts and a sith lord and failing slowly. "Taint you. You won't even notice when it happens, the jedi will -"

And then his strength gives out, and he dies without further fanfare.

Permalink Eye

.... Nariveth makes a complicated face and wants very badly to not be in the middle of a warzone right now. She stays right where she is, however.

(She wishes she could have talked to him properly. Dark side? There's a dark side? What does that even mean?)

Permalink Eye

After he falls, Occlus takes a deep breath and focus inwards for a moment. These ghosts are hers and they will do as she says and she will put them away now. One by one, they wink out. She smiles. It's so refreshing to be listened to, inside her own head.

Now, are there any Jedi who survived her psychic pulse and need to be finished off lying around here?

Permalink Eye

Yep.

One is crawling away. One is pretending to be dead. One is muttering information to a comlink, whisper soft; intel on Occlus. A warning, to other jedi. Stay away, she is powerful and has at least four Force ghosts, she killed two masters.

Permalink Eye

It's not very polite, talking about someone behind their back. Especially when they're standing right here, now have a saber through the chest for your trouble. And she'll crush the comlink to dust. Crawler gets a similar treatment. The one pretending to be dead gets zapped until he's no longer pretending.

Now back to where her apprentice is standing. "The lesson today is that when the going gets tough, cheat."

Permalink Eye

Nariveth swallows a lump in her throat, and nods.

"The - what were those, things? The things with you?"

Permalink Eye

"They are called Force ghosts. When a powerful Force user dies, they can leave something like an impression of themselves on the area. This impression has the same capacity to channel the Force and retains the knowledge and memories of the one who left it. They are almost always but not exclusively Sith, something in the Jedi philosophy makes them less likely to leave behind ghosts. You find them most often in tombs or battlefields, places of death. I have bound several to me, and can make use of their power as though it were my own, and as you saw today, even summon them to act semi-independently."

Permalink Eye

Nod. ... Slightly stiff nod. She's holding together very well, for a girl whose mind is about 60% internal screaming, but she's not exactly okay.

Permalink Eye

"If you are going to have a breakdown, it would be helpful if you could wait until we get back on the tram." Occlus heads in that direction.

Permalink Eye

"I am very good at only having breakdowns in convenient locations," she says, a touch mechanically. She follows Occlus.

Permalink Eye

And here is the tram!

"If it would help you to talk through things, I can listen."

Permalink Eye

"I," she begins, and her voice cracks. She shuts her eyes and shakes her head. "Need to sort through my head before I can possibly talk to anyone else about what's going on in it."

Permalink Eye

Deep breath. Remarkable display of self control as she composes herself.

"You said the Force ghosts are impressions, but how complete impressions are they? Can they change, grow?"

Permalink Eye

"No, they are stagnant, usually focused on something that was happening at the time of their death. I met one that was convinced anyone who entered his tomb was his apprentice, trying to poison him, even though both had been dead for centuries."

Permalink Eye

"So, they're not people?"

Permalink Eye

"In the sense which I assume you're getting at, no."

Permalink Eye

Nod. She mentally subtracts four from the number of people Occlus casually tortures, and then shuts down that part of her brain again because aaa no not here.

"The, jedi mentioned 'the dark side'? What did he mean?"

Permalink Eye

"To those with limited vision, and I include both Jedi and Sith in this category, the Force is composed of two parts, light and dark. The "light side" invokes acts of compassion and selflessness. The "dark side" is destruction and selfishness. The Jedi draw power from the light side, the Sith from the dark. As I see it, there is only one Force, the difference is the ends to which it is put, and the method by which one calls on its power."

Permalink Eye

This philosophy makes more sense to her than stark good and evil. But then, she does recall how using lightning feels, so maybe it's not entirely crazy. She'll have to analyze that, when she has her freak out.

"Can using certain Force powers affect your emotional state?"

Permalink Eye

"If you draw on the Force while in a heightened emotional state, there can be a resonance effect, especially if you are unprepared or undisciplined."

Permalink Eye

This sounds about right to her.

"What are some techniques for dealing with the resonance effect?"

Permalink Eye

"The most effective way is to be fully in control of your emotions before you put the Force to any active use. Be mindful of your feelings, and notice if they start to build out of your control. Remember that you are the source of your emotions, the ground upon which they are built. They serve as you dictate, you are not subject to them."

Permalink Eye

"I'll have to work on that," she murmurs. "But I do actually already know how to work in that vein. Like, well, like so."

Permalink Eye

"Quite." Occlus is impressed with her control, even if she doesn't understand why Nariveth should be experiencing so much turmoil now. Killing Jedi is a fairly normal thing to do, as far as Occlus is concerned.

Permalink Eye

Nariveth certainly isn't thinking about the why, because that freak out is on hold until she has better circumstances to handle it.

She inspects her nails.

"Are, we going to another location...? After this." Meaning, in another warzone.

Permalink Eye

"That will depend on whether Moff Pyron's scouts have reported back yet, and what they have to say."

Permalink Eye

Aaaaaa another warzone aaaaaaaa.

"Okay."

Permalink Eye

And here they are, back at base! What does Pyron have to say?

Permalink Eye

"Scouts have confirmed that Thanaton's base is at Axial Park. As far as we can tell, they were not detected."

Permalink Eye

"What are the defenses like?"

Permalink Eye

"Exterior defenses are minor and subtle - Thanaton was trying to hide this base and nearly succeeded. None of our scouts were able to get inside, so intel is limited, but we can assume from how Thanaton operates that the interior defenses are not so barren."

Permalink Eye

"I do not wish to go in blind if I can help it. What options do we have for infiltration? Or could we bait the Republic into attacking, like we did with Kallous?"

Permalink Eye

"Our infiltration options are unfortunately limited. Our ordinary agents would likely be detected by Thanaton or one of his allies through the Force, so we can't send them in. I have a man trying to get into their security systems remotely, but it's slow going."

Permalink Eye

"Show me the latest information we have on the distribution of Thanaton's forces."

Permalink Eye

Moffs can fetch, if a sith lord tells them to. Pyron gets Occlus her information.

Thanaton's forces have pulled back after the loss of Skar; many of them have been sent to bolster other forces, but Pyron insists that they're set up to be called away later.

Permalink Eye

She'll just have to get in and done before they can get back, then. Do they have any information at all on the layout? Backdoors?

Permalink Eye

They have a layout of what the base was like, but no intel on how it's been updated.

There are the entrances; a main ground entrance, a hangar, and one that's built to be one way but during the battle to take the Republic outpost got turned into an entrance by Kallous, by ripping the door off.

Permalink Eye

A hangar? Can they slice or appropriate Thanaton's IFF codes and get in that way?

Permalink Eye

That is one of the things they are working on with the man trying to get into their security systems, but they don't currently have them. Pyron will keep an eye out for possible methods to acquire the IFF codes.

Permalink Eye

While her forces work on that, Occlus will get a meal and take some time to rest. It's been somewhat of a long day.

Permalink Eye

Yes, it has been.

Nariveth gets herself a meal, too, and then goes looking for a quiet place to unpack her head. Also known as 'completely freak out.'

Is one available?

Permalink Eye

There's a meditation chamber that Occlus doesn't seem inclined to use.

Well, "chamber". More of a nook, really. But it has a door.

Permalink Eye

Excellent, that will do fine. She doesn't require space, anyway, she requires solitude. She shuts the door and sits in the center, because this time she would like some plausible deniability if someone comes in. Sith do this sort of thing, right? So she'll call it good. ... She'll have to minimize the crying, though, she's pretty sure that sith aren't supposed to cry. If she's partially in a - well, she's inclined to call it a Force trance, she thinks she can minimize the crying. Sitting and paying attention to the Force is soothing, if she does it right and focuses internally instead of externally. So, she'll do that, and while she does that she'll be multitasking and sorting through her head.

Okay. Now that she's in a place where it's moderately safe to unpack her emotions, what is she feeling?

Sort of like an innocent horribly caught up in a war, really. How accurate, she's almost disappointed in herself for being so straightforward. She does not want to be here, she does not want to be involved with killing people, she does not want to watch Occlus murder an entire group of jedi and think I am probably going to have to do that too, at some point. Because she likely will, though maybe not in that number or in that manner. Sith don't get to get away with not killing the enemy. Like it or not, she is a sith now, and her exits out of that are still looking pretty bleak.

What does she do when the world has forced her into a position where she has to become a killer or die? Watch others die, or die?

That's not an easy question to answer. Or, it is, but she doesn't like the answers available. She rejected it at the academy, but it seems that wasn't enough. The battle to not be terrible is ongoing. Is she going to spend the rest of her life doing this? Being given choices where all of her available options are terrible and she has nowhere to run? Where she has to find alternative solutions that are maybe some flavor of okay? Because, actually, when she frames it like that... she might not like it, but she can adjust. What else has she been doing her entire life except getting handed terrible options?

At least now she has the power to affect things. At least now she can do something other than 'obey' or 'don't and suffer for it.' She can't affect everything, some things are still out of her grasp, but ultimately, what is more central to the sith philosophy than acquiring power? Maybe she'll make a passable sith, after all.

She will have to watch herself, though. Some sort of way to check herself for crazy and evil, even though the possibility sounds a bit insane right now. It's likely a lot of crazy and evil people don't wake up in the morning and decide to slaughter some children before breakfast; she's not an exception. She does not get a pass just because she's herself, she knows what she's like after the high of using lightning, she is not immune.

But figuring out how to check herself for evil proficiently is a task that will take longer than she has time to commit - she is still in a warzone. She'll likely be busy tomorrow, and she needs to sleep. ... And probably switch out her kolto patch for a fresher one. Self care's important, she's seen herself when she's sleep deprived and injured and malnourished, and she would like to not see herself like that again, thanks.

That's about enough introspection for now. She's not done, but again, she's in a warzone, and she's gotten herself to stable. Up she gets, to go looking for a place to get a new kolto patch.

Permalink Eye

There's a med unit down the hall.

Permalink Eye

How convenient!

She solicits a kolto patch to replace the used one, and then she goes to find a refresher to have herself a shower, because damn it if she's going to be in a warzone at least she will be clean.

And then: bedtime. She doesn't have any trouble sleeping.

Permalink Eye

Which is good, because Occlus has her up bright and early the next day.

"Moff Pyron. What do you have for me?"

Permalink Eye

Here are updated troop movements! They are redeployed elsewhere this time, this group over here is causing some of Occlus's forces trouble, but it's pretty superficial and seems to be built as more of a distraction to draw Occlus away from other things.

Here is information on Thanaton! He's leading a battle against the Republic, and advertising it well. It looks like the battle's going well and he'll win it for the Empire if left to his own devices.

Here are the IFF codes for the hangar in Thanaton's base! And here are holo stills from the security cameras; they unfortunately cannot get real time holo footage, because doing so would likely tip off Thanaton's forces, but this can update Occlus on where the troops are located and what the defenses are like. Kallous is present, as is the third apprentice. The interior defenses are immense, and Pyron's people are still working on figuring out everything, but they're making good progress.

Permalink Eye

Occlus will let Thanaton have his victory while she sweeps his feet out from under him.

Infiltration through the hangar seems like the best option. She'll have a ship prepared with the proper IFF, so there should be no problems getting in. She can probably handle most of the defenses herself, but a ray shield trap would be problematic. What's her support look like in terms of remotely deactivating that sort of thing?

Permalink Eye

Decent, the force shields, motion detectors and security cameras can get deactivated remotely, though not forever. Once Thanaton's forces realize what's going on, they'll start closing the holes in their security.

Permalink Eye

Then hold off on that until Occlus actually gets there, and deactivate them based on her progress through the base.

She checks communications, makes sure its secure and her earpiece is receiving correctly, sees that Nariveth gets one as well, and then they can be off.

Permalink Eye

(Nariveth is less Not Thrilled about this new adventure. Yes, people are going to die, but at least she's not going into a literal warzone again.)

Permalink Eye

Thanaton's base awaits!

The Imperials here are less willing to stand down when threatened.

Permalink Eye

Then they'll stand down when they're dead. It doesn't make a whole lot of difference to Occlus.

Hangar cleared. Onwards!

Permalink Eye

Turrets! Droids! Imperials that shoot first and frantically comm for Kallous!

But no force shields between Occlus and the people that need to die.

Permalink Eye

How convenient. Competent minions are a good thing to have. Everything that needs to die, dies summarily.

Is she getting close to Kallous?

Permalink Eye

Yep!

Kallous is conveniently heading in her direction. New apprentice in tow, apparently Kallous thinks that he'll be useful somehow.

Permalink Eye

It'll save her having to hunt him down separately, at least. Is there a nice, big, open, untrapped space nearby?

Permalink Eye

There's a conference room that's free of traps, does that count?

Permalink Eye

That will do. She sweeps all the tables and chairs to one side with wave, and waits for Kallous to show himself.

Permalink Eye

 


Here he is!

He does not waste time with talking, his opener is 'blast his enemies with as much lightning as possible.'

Permalink Eye

Lightning. That's cute. Occlus exerts her power, and wills all the lightning to be collected in front of her. When Kallous finishes, she throws the orb of concentrated energy right back at him.

Permalink Eye

Kallous doesn't actually think he could dispell that, but he thinks Occlus could.

So to persuade her, he pulls her apprentice in front of it, and if that doesn't work, he'll be throwing his lot in with 'dodge.' Dragging his squishy charge behind him, of course.

Permalink Eye

Nariveth tries to resist but - well. She's been at this less than a week, Kallous is a Darth, there was really only one way this was going to go.

Permalink Eye

Occlus snarls and the sphere jerks upwards at the last instant to impact against the ceiling with a crash and a shower of sparks. Occlus uses that as cover to pull her apprentice back to her side of the room and draw her saber. She darts in to close with Kallous before he can recover and launch another attack.

Permalink Eye

You know what, if Nariveth isn't dead, she'll consent to be used as a ragdoll. Augh.

Permalink Eye

Kallous declines to let Occlus close. Actually, he declines to stay in this room. Into the hallway he goes, dragging his charge after him.

It's a bad day for apprentices everywhere.

Permalink Eye

Typical Thanaton tactics. Focus, and manifest three ghosts in the hallway in front of Kallous, all shoving back towards the conference room with the Force.

Permalink Eye

Kallous decides that instead of fighting the ghosts he is going to break through the wall into the next room over. Crash.

Permalink Eye

Occlus has more ghosts. Manifest, push.

Permalink Eye

Now he fights the ghosts, though he doesn't make it into a direct power contest. He uses his power enough to steer himself away from Occlus as he's dragged along, breaking through walls as he goes.

He drops the apprentice off in a hallway on the way.

Permalink Eye

Is the apprentice weak enough that Nariveth could take him?

Permalink Eye

He is pretty untrained, and sort of delusional, and she's definitely smarter than he is. But 'pretty untrained' is more trained than Nariveth, so it could potentially go either way.

Permalink Eye

Then she'll pause briefly to knock him out with a jolt of lightning, then continue chasing Kallous. He's not the only one who can crash through walls.

Permalink Eye

Down goes the apprentice.

Kallous will lead Occlus on a merry chase. He is very fast, and very good at breaking down walls. The merry chase goes by: turrets, armed Imperial soldiers, battle droids - the list goes on.

He seems to be purposefully wasting Occlus's time; weakening her, and more importantly, buying time for Thanaton's men to fix their security.

Permalink Eye

Wasting her time: Not Okay.

Out come all five ghosts to hold down Kallous the same way she dealt with that Jedi yesterday.

Permalink Eye

Kallous can't actually get out of this.

But he can make a lightning explosion at his location in retaliation. Just to maybe get Occlus, too.

Permalink Eye

She doesn't catch any lightning this time, but she does raise a shield that blocks any of it from reaching her.

Did Kallous survive that or was it a suicide gesture?

Permalink Eye

What kind of sith do you think Kallous is, Occlus, he wouldn't suicide this quickly.

Maybe later, though.

Right now he's just sparking angrily.

Permalink Eye

Does his head continue to spark as it rolls away from his body?

 

 

...She perhaps should not have been so quick to kill him. Maybe interrogate him. Find out if Thanaton's up to anything right now.

On the other hand, he annoyed her. And there's still that new apprentice she didn't kill. Speaking of which, she should probably go find her own. Is Nariveth in any trouble?

Permalink Eye

Nope, she has found her way to the apprentice and is tying him up because that seems the sane and rational thing to do in this situation.

The Imperial soldiers were all smart enough to run at the sight of a sith battle that involved so much property damage.

Permalink Eye

Good. Time to leave before Thanaton gets back or the defenses come online.

Levitate Thanaton's apprentice, and back to the hangar.

Permalink Eye

Thanaton's men do not try shooting any of them. They'll just - not.

They even get the security system patched, and shortly after the force shields flicker on, they flicker back off. Clearly the people in charge would like Occlus and her apprentice to please leave immediately.

Permalink Eye

Occlus surmises Thanaton has not yet returned, and is not being apprised of the situation on a minute-to-minute basis. The people in charge may come to regret their decision to speed her departure. Not that that would be any skin off her nose.

Hangar! Ship! Back to Pyron's base which hopefully Thanaton has not destroyed in revenge!

Permalink Eye

Nope, Pyron's base is completely fine.

But there is a message waiting for Occlus.

Permalink Eye

Occlus first hands off her prisoner to a pair of soldiers, with instructions to lock him up somewhere secure. Then, she attends to the message. Who's it from and what do they have to say?

Permalink Eye

It's from Thanaton.

He's - well, livid doesn't quite do it justice. Skar's death was an annoying setback, a loss brought about when his apprentice failed to listen to him. A failure of loyalty as much as it was a failure of foresight. Kallous's death, though? Kallous was his heir. His most well trained, oldest, smartest apprentice. The one he'd hoped would one day take his place. And his death took place while Thanaton was keeping him safe.

Darth Thanaton is perhaps no longer thinking straight.

"Occlus," he growls, spitting the word like it's the foulest of curses. "Government Plaza. Tomorrow. Everyone will be there. The Kaggath ends, one way or another, either face me then or I will hunt you to the Outer Rim."

End message.

He doesn't look happy.

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It's nice to connect with people on a personal level. Occlus is going to take this feeling of joy and save it deep in her heart.

"Moff Pyron. It seems this fight will be over tomorrow, one way or another. It has been a pleasure to work with you. You may begin preparations to deploy your forces more conventionally."

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Moff Pyron nods, gravely.

"It has been an honor, my lord. Good luck. Not that I expect you'll need it."

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Now, where did they stash that prisoner? She should at least learn his name before she kills him.

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They stashed him in a set of holding cells built to A: withstand lightning, and B: with all furniture inside welded to the floor. As such, the apprentice is uselessly blasting lightning at the force shield to try to overload it, and getting exactly nowhere.

His name turns out to be Larsus. No title.

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"Tell me why I shouldn't kill you. Bear in mind that your master will be dead by the end of tomorrow."

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"You're mad," says Larsus. "When Thanaton comes for me, he'll turn you into a little smear on the ground-!"

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Force choke.

"I said give me a reason not to kill you. One more chance." She will allow him just enough air to answer her.

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Squeak.

"... I, could, be, useful to you?" he attempts.

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"Do you possess any knowledge or skills I couldn't find on any of half a dozen other acolytes from Korriban?"

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"I, have already begun training beyond that and could beat any of the acolytes fresh from Korriban -" An idea blossoms in his mind. "Let me prove it. You want the strongest apprentice, right? So - let me fight the redhead, and when I win you'll have a stronger apprentice."

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"I possess strength in abundance already. What I require in an apprentice is intelligence."

And she is not impressed by what he has displayed thus far. Occlus twists her hand and snaps the boy's neck.

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He dies without incident.

Pyron's men are rather relieved to have him out of the holding cell; just because a holding cell's built to hold a sith, doesn't mean it'll do it reliably. This is much tidier. A sith can't escape if they're dead, after all.

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Where is her own apprentice?

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Getting a crash course in basic tactics from Pyron, actually. He's preparing his forces for battle against the Republic, and explaining patiently as he goes. Nariveth's listening raptly, asking occasional questions about mechanics and the logic of the battlefield.

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That's why she kept this one.

Occlus waits for an appropriate pause in the conversation, then says, "Apprentice, might I have a moment of your time?"

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She glances up from the tactical holo, and nods.

"Of course, my lord. Thank you, Moff," she says, and she inclines her head to him in respect. Then she goes to follow Occlus.

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Occlus goes over to the side of the room.

"In the unlikely event that I lose tomorrow, Thanaton will not let you live. It is traditional for the loser of the Kaggath to be erased from history, and any followers or apprentices killed. I will make arrangements for Khem Val's bond to be passed to you upon my death. He will see you safely to my ship, and the others will escape with you. Afterwards, you may continue with them or not as you choose, but you would be wise to disappear."

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Nariveth swallows, and nods.

"Do you have an estimation on how hard he'd look for me?"

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"You have not been with me very long, so he will probably not exert undue effort. If you change your name and avoid Sith, that should be enough. The pirate has experience that will be helpful."

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Great, wonderful, if Occlus dies she'll actually be set up to be far far away from all of this sith business. In a complicated way, it's basically exactly what she wants, except it very distinctly isn't because that would mean Occlus would be dead and why is this thought affecting her so much, what?

"I," she begins, emotion suddenly in her voice, and she looks down and clears her throat. "Believe you will be fine, my lord."

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"As do I. But these are easy precations to take, and you should be aware of them. Now, unless you have something else you wish to ask me, that will be all."

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Nariveth spends a few seconds wondering if it's appropriate to hug a sith lord or not.

"Um, no. Thank you."

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Occlus goes off and closets herself with Khem Val for a while, to make the bond-transfer arrangements. When she emerges, she obtains a meal and eats it, then utilizes the meditation chamber, recovering and gathering her strength for the next day's duel. This trance also satisfies her need for sleep, so she stays there until the morning.

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No one disturbs her while she meditates.

Pyron has transport ready for her, though. When she needs it.

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And Nariveth brings her breakfast.

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How thoughful of her apprentice. Occlus will eat on the way to Government Plaza.

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The Government Plaza is filled with a surprising number of people, for a place that's in the middle of a warzone. Sith, and their escorts, here to watch the apparent show.

They part for Occlus, and there stands Thanaton. He's calmer, now, with a grim determination winning out over frothing rage, but the rage is definitely present.

"Occlus. So kind of you to join us, I almost thought you weren't coming."

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You'd think a Darth would have his emotions locked down better. Occlus herself presents icy confidence to all observers. Beneath that, anticipation.

 

"Darth Thanaton. You know I prefer to make an entrance. If you are so concerned about your schedule, you should have specified a time in your challenge."

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"A proper sith leaves his enemy with no time to prepare," lectures Thanaton. "I would have taught you this, if you'd followed proper procedure after your master's 'tragic' end."

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"Then you should have come to me, shouldn't you? Or did you need the night to grieve your losses?"

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"I," he clarifies, haughtily, "was busy winning a battle for the Empire."

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"Too busy to protect your apprentices and your base? Half measures count for nothing in the Kaggath."

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Snarl. "We'll see how halved my measures are when I rip you in half."

Oh look, a big red 'this pisses me off' button. That's nice for Occlus to know about.

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Occlus smiles very slightly, to play up the difference in their levels of control.

 

"If you are quite finished with the taunts, I believe we have a duel to conduct."

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"Yes. We do."

There is a designated sith duel location. It's that big open space, perfect for two sith that are trying to murder each other. Everyone watching is, of course, staying away from it, because they have some measure of self preservation.

Thanaton steps into the designated murder location.

In some places, it's traditional to bow to your opponent before dueling them, but Thanaton is mysteriously ignoring this tradition in favor of immediately trying to kill Occlus with a lightning storm.