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The Scarlet Knight's Misadventures

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Book 1 Ch 1: Tython Prelude

Beginning of early spring 8 ATC

Deep maroon nostrils flared in the semi gloom inside the cockpit of the XS stock freighter Unbroken Mistress as a oddly garbed figure sat in one of the chairs. A dark grey hood shrouded the figure's face from view as orbs of molten silver gleamed in the inky darkness contained within the cowl. A soft grunt and creaking of leather was heard as the hooded figure leaned forward to peer at the instrumentation on the console panels and readouts on the monitors. A few moments prior, the ship had just dropped out of hyperspace into real space and was now approaching a planet stained a deep red on its horizons. Its stratosphere appeared at this distance as a haze of reddish orange which seemed to fascinate the hooded male, for male it was, as he spoke to the Captain in heavily accented Basic "Captain, planet name it called?" His tone implied great curiosity.

"Aeten II, but we spacers just call it Aeten," the pepper and salt haired brown eyed human Captain answered with a sidelong glance at his strange companion. The Captain wasn't certain what to make of him. He was clearly young, but yet there was a sense of poise and command to him. By the Captain's standards, the stranger was a fully grown man since he stood as tall as the Captain, yet he had this unfinished look to him, as if he had not reached his full growth. His Basic was difficult to understand at the best of times, and at the worst of times, his Basic was broken. The Unbroken Mistress had been traveling in hyperspace for over a week now on a job from the mysterious figure's homeworld where only select smugglers were permitted to do business there. Every other spacer got shot up to bits and pieces of junk floating in space by the small but highly competent defense fleet that guarded the planet. The Captain finally decided to ask a question "Have you ever been off world before?"

The dark hooded head turned towards him and tilted as he pondered the question. There was a sense that he was mentally translating the question. The Captain found himself staring at two molten silver eyes that actually glowed within the cowl's shadow. It was rather unnerving to say the least. There was a slow blink of those strange eyes before the man, actually a youngster of some sixteen years, simply shook his head in response. He preempted the next question by commenting "Your escort I am, King say. King his reason has." There was a fluid shrug of shoulders not yet broad under the dark grey mantle. "Not good time, so I argue not." He flicked a finger at a flashing button on the communications console. "Calling you, someone is."

With another creaking of leather, the hooded man/youngster rose and withdrew to the shadows of the short passageway that laid between the cockpit and the crew lounge where his fellow escort sat as the older adult observed the skeleton crew playing a game of dejarik. The youngster was far more interested in idly watching as the Captain hit the flashing button and listened in as a blue hologram of the spaceport administrator flash into view. Since the outer layers of his clothing were gray and black, he wasn't apparently visible, so it was safe for him to linger in the shadows without raising suspicion. The spaceport administrator assigned the Captain to a docking bay and gave the coordinates for said docking bay. The spaceport administrator wished the Captain a safe landing and disappeared from view as the hologram dimmed out.

He quietly strode back to the chair he had been sitting, and the chair protested rather loudly as he sat down. The youngster turned to glance at the chair then at the Captain, then deliberately made the chair protest a few more times as he spun it around before he settled himself firmly with smothered giggles. Then the youngster grew more serious now that he had his moment of juvenile fun. The Captain had grimaced at the sounds with a pained expression on his pasty white face, but had held his peace. There was no point in possibly jeopardizing a source of steady work this far out in Wild Space. There was the sense that the mysterious stranger had been amused by the squeaky chair. All the Captain knew was that there had been some murmuring among the escorts assigned to him and his crew. As if they hadn't quite approved of his escort accompanying the older adults. Perhaps he was thought too young for escort duty? The Captain could only speculate as he scratched at an itch on his neck since he had no standard to measure his escorts by save only that the young male with him in the cockpit looked unfinished compared to the other adults.

Then there fell a palpable silence in the cockpit save for the assorted sounds coming from the consoles as the Captain guided his ship closer and closer to the planet which grew to a fiery red in the cockpit windows as the ship homed on the planet. "How plants there grow with sky orange?" The hooded man made a gesture at the definitely orangish red sky as the ship descended through it on approach to the spaceport.

The Captain now softly chuckled "You'll see when we land, my Lord." My Lord was the polite form of address the smugglers used with the Tsis they did smuggling jobs for, and from what the Captain and his crew had seen of their bosses, it seemed rather appropriate. What made the Captain and his crew regard their employers as strange was the fact that their employers were not interested in acquiring wealth. Instead, they were far more interested in acquiring knowledge and equipment that they could reverse engineer to learn and adapt to their own designs. Plus what they couldn't provide for themselves from the natural resources of their home world, of course. That was always a given. No world was never completely self-sufficient. That was the current job they were on, to acquire something their bosses wanted, and to sell something that their bosses had no use for. Namely four former pirate spaceships. They already possessed knowledge of the technology on the ships they had captured, so there were no need to strip and salvage the ships. Captain Angfarod had recommended that they sell the ships, and after some consideration, his employers had agreed. Hence, the visit to Aeten II and his special escort in the form of the Tsis adults that accompanied him. Two were with him on the Unbroken Mistress The ship was rather quiet because most of his crew were piloting the other ships that would be sold planetside, and each of the four ships to be sold had a Tsis escort aboard.

The male hooded Tsis escort that accompanied Captain Angfarod in the cockpit had been rather interesting company, truth be told. He had asked so many questions about the places that the smugglers had been to, and where had they come from, and why they had become spacers in the first place. The human man chuckled and hadn't minded the endless questions. It simply proved to Otheri that the Tsis could be just like other people with a healthy sense of curiosity. Even if the other Tsis escort on board the ship hadn't approved of all the endless questioning. The elder had spoken to the younger in tones that clearly indicated disapproval, even if the language they used was not Basic, and there had been quite a flurry of sharp words exchanged betwixt the twain which the younger had seemed to win. The elder escort had been mostly silent after that. The Captain had finally ventured to ask the younger escort about it. The youngster had given him a long penetrating look then merely commented “Rank, I pulled.” There was also the underlying tone of This is a private matter. Best not ask. So Otheri had not asked any further about the argument, even if his curiosity was eating him alive. The ship cut through the winds as the spaceport came into plain view. "Oh good, we're almost there," the Captain commented rather needlessly.

The hooded man simply nodded then inquired "Windy all time?" The human shook his head. The weather may not affect space faring ships, but the effects were still plain to see in the forms of clouds scuttling across at high speed, and lightning crackling in the air. There was a pause as Thravang caught view of something and rose from his chair for a better view as he leaned closer to the cockpit windows. He pointed a finger at the view of the volcanic field “Things blow up. Many things. Few, we have. What you call things blow up?” He never had seen so many in one relatively small geological area. He nearly plastered his face against the view port, and the cowl on his head managed to stay upright and his left hand reached up to tug it firmly back into place. His left hand was half hidden by the shadows next to the view port, but seemed to be missing a finger, and the fingertips were rather pointed.

Captain Angfarod chuckled at his escort's utter fascination with the volcanoes "We call those volcanoes. V-o-l-c-a-n-o-e-s. One of those things that blow up is a volcano." Thravang's head turned towards the human Captain, and his silver eyes in the darkness of his cowl narrowed as his unseen facial features deepened into a scowl. Nevertheless, the young man did not comment on how Otheri had spoken to him. This language of the smugglers, he was horrible with, that much was true. The Captain murmured "My pardon, my Lord." There was a faint tremor in his voice. Thravang's ridged brow deepened at that. There was no reason for the Captain to fear him. Was there?

Thravang waved aside the apology with a shake of his head “Your language, hard is. Many words, I know not." Captain Angfarod nodded and turned back to the consoles as he steered the Unbroken Mistress to his assigned docking bay and breathed a sigh of relief as the ship touched down onto firm ground. Otheri was always glad when he arrived safely at a spaceport in one piece.

As soon as the XS freighter's landing gear touched the ground, people poured out of the central building that sat in the middle courtyard. There were several other landing pads arranged around the central building and those were now being occupied by the ships just landed by the rest of the smuggler crew. "If you'll excuse me, my Lord, I best go and take care of the landing protocols," Captain Angfarod said as he rapidly rose to his feet and grabbed his datapad before hastily exiting the cockpit area. A moment later, Thravang heard the hissing of the ship's ramp as it opened then extended downwards from the fuselage to the ground. He remained seated a few more moments before checking his sword scabbard to make sure it hung free at his right side before he rose to his feet.

He slowly walked to the gaping maw of the door and paused just inside the inky shadows as he peered downwards towards the Captain. He crossed his arms as his silver eyes flitted from person to person as they bustled around the ship. Some seemed to be bringing the fueling pipes and hooking them up to the Unbroken Mistress. He did note that all of the workers seemed to be male. Did their women stay home and do nothing but birth babies? Back home, there were no idle layabouts. Everyone did their share regardless of gender. Even the Ruling House members had work to do.

Captain Angfarod glanced up at him just then, and saw a shrouded figure mostly hidden by the shadows standing by the ramp entry. Dark gray patterned robes and hood helped him blend in more with the shadows. His Tsis escort were so mysterious. There were still so little he knew about his bosses. He did know Lord Thravang to be far less formal than the other Tsis escorts from the way they had conversed in that Basic of his. The elder escort had barely spoken to Otheri – he had seemed content to leave the dealings to his younger colleague. He turned back to the spaceport administrator and handed over his datapad. After several minutes of perusal, the weary looking administrator finally said "Everything's in order then, Captain. I'll not delay you further from your pleasure and business." With the emphasis being placed on pleasure.

Thravang silently raised an eyebrow at that before he shook his head at that. Of course, he had been reckoned too young yet to have acquired an education in that particular subject. His nostrils flared again as he took in a deep breath of the fresh air. Well, he wouldn't necessarily call it fresh compared to the scents of his home, but it certainly was fresh compared to the air abroad the ship. He lightly stepped down the ramp in his black leather boots doing his best not to draw far too much attention to himself. He came to a full stop by the human Captain, and he stood at shoulder height next to the human. He lightly touched Captain Angfarod's elbow "What now? These ships, sell you them?" He indicated the other XS freighters with a gesture of his hand.

"Spaceport administrator says they have someone in charge here to handle that. Can handle repairs too, or so I've been told," the Captain replied with another glance at him.

Thravang grunted softly "Fine, it suits. Lead way, you do . Assume you this place know well. If you know not, shall wander city?" There was a sense that the man had a smile in the shadows of his cowl.

The Captain chuckled "Nah, my Lord, I know my ways around these parts." This male Tsis seemed more genial and affable than the other escorts he has had in the past. The others had been so taciturn and reserved. Not to say that Thravang didn't take his duties seriously, but his youth was clear in his voice.

As they walked through the wall arch that delineated the separation between the spaceport and the market bazaar, the Captain finally decided to inquire after his escort's age. "My Lord, I was hoping you wouldn't mind a question. How old are you?"

A sidelong measuring glance then "Ten and six cold seasons, have I seen."

The Captain laughed "My Lord, you're as tall as me. Surely you jest."

A shake of the head inside the dark grey hood "No. I funny not make." Thravang did not deem it fit to tell Captain Angfarod that his father had already passed three hundred years. There was a pause as the spaceport slowly started receding behind them as their footsteps took them further into the bazaar then Thravang gestured at the various stores "So, tell me you, how people here live?" As they had walked down the street, Thravang's eyes had constantly shifted from one object to another. Sometimes it was people that he glanced at, sometimes it was objects that had attracted his curiosity. Sometimes it was buildings. Although, he observed that the buildings seemed to be much of the sameness on the exterior. A dull drab gray with two windows and a door, and not much variation on that. Hanging over all the various stores and houses, the reddish sky haze persisted.

The Captain hadn't missed the way his escort's hooded head had turned towards this and that "My Lord, this planet is mostly a mining outpost, but spacers do come here on jobs when they get hired."

There was a pause and nod before Thravang commented "Women, I not see. First thing notice I when ship land."

"The miners usually hire out here for jobs that last two or three years before they transfer to somewhere more family friendly and save up their credits since the jobs pay well here," the Captain explained to his young escort. "What about your people? Do they have miners?"

"Yes. Miners, we have. Both men and women. Axe care not what hand holds." He pantomimed striking a rock with a mining pickaxe. Thravang paused then slowed to stand outside a dusty storefront as he tilted his head to read the business sign in Basic very slowly. The sign said Aeten Shipyard Merchandise. "Think I this what we need." He reached a four fingered gloved hand to touch the door panel and it softly snicked open to admit the two.

"Axes? Are your people that primitive?" Captain Angfarod asked with shock writ all over in his voice.

"No. Use I words know I. Your language, hard talk." Thravang answered as he stepped over the threshold into the shop's well lit main room. Pale lights bathed the merchandise available for sale sitting either under cover in cases, or on metal pallets out on the open floor space. He paused to survey the room and noted that all the objects were spaceship parts, and they all seemed to come from various different types. He also had caught sight of the merchant consulting a datapad behind the counter at the back of the room. He swiveled around and strode with purpose towards the counter with the Captain in tow. There was a soft rustling of his robes as they settled around his body as he halted in front of the counter and merchant. He looked the shop merchant over with a critical eye. "Captain. This right man, he?"

Captain Angfarod gave him a good eyeballing and nodded "Yes. He doesn't have that shifty look. He looks honest enough to me."

"Very well. Talk you to him.” What went unsaid was the fact that Thravang didn't really have much of a choice.

There was now a puzzled expression on the light skinned human merchant as he regarded the two as his head twisted to and forth between them several times. The sable haired male wasn't certain what to make of the pair now. "Excuse me a moment." He tapped several keys on the datapad he had been reading.

Interesting personage here. Not native Basic speaker. Heavy but peculiar accent. Not Imperial, but there is a similarity. Hood up, hard to see face in shadows. Silver eyes that glow. Dressed in grey robes and leather armour with black and purple accents. Armed with strange fancy looking blade, looks like maybe vibrosword... but isn't. Hard to ID. Be on alert. - Jonas

"Sorry about that, I had to send an associate of mine a note about a business contract that just got signed," the human spoke as he set the datapad aside just out of view. "Welcome to my shop. As you must have already observed, I specialize in starship parts and repairs. Call me Tosinec. Gentlemen, what brings you two to my shop?" Tosinec's cornflower blue eyes regarded them in a friendly fashion, just as if he was used to dealing with quaint strangers on a daily basis at his shop.

Captain Angfarod nodded "It's like this, you see. I and my companion here," he jerked a thumb at Thravang "have several freighter ships we would like to sell. They were pirate ships, and we haven't got use for them. They're spaceworthy, but they'll be in need of repairs just the same before they're fit for jobs."

Tosinec raised an eyebrow as he rubbed his chin "How did you get a hold of those ships?" he asked carefully.

It was Thravang who answered "Fools, they." he paused as he hunted for the right words "Think they my people easy fights." He shrugged lightly “Die, they do.”

"Got problems with pirates, eh?" Tosinec asked as he hastily thought through what the deeply hooded stranger had said, and more specifically had NOT said. Like how the man hadn't given details about his home nor how the attacks had been handled. No details about his people either. Aside from the pirates being dead, obviously.

Thravang simply nodded with a sour grunt "Every full change of seasons." His grey hood shook from side to side "All time, they die. Fools." The last word was uttered with disdain.

Captain Angfarod verbally prodded Tosinec "So what about it, Tosinec? I'll take you to see the ships to verify the truth of our words." Tosinec agreed, and left with the Captain in tow as they traced the Captain's path back to the spaceport. Thravang did not accompany the Captain, he did not wish to interfere with the Captain, the Captain would know how to haggle for a fair price far better than he. So instead, he simply stepped outside and surveyed the dim street with a thoughtful look as he considered where he could wander to next. He spotted a sign further down the street that displayed a diagram of what looked to be a drinking glass. Ah, a cantina, perhaps. Cantinas had come up in his rather stinted conversations with Otheri, and he was fascinated with the concept of a cantina. They simply didn't exist back home. He turned to walk towards the sign and paused just inside the door so he could check out the surroundings.

Wary silvered eyes roamed here and there as he surveyed the main room. There were stools in front of the bar counter, and there were several booths lined next to three walls. There was also a raised platform where several females were apparently dancing. He stared at them for several long moments then slightly shook his head. They were rather.... scantily clad. No self respecting woman at home would wear those outfits. He simply didn't know what to call those ... garments. Within his cowl, he silently made a face that spoke of his distaste as he spotted a fairly dark table he could seat himself at. With a creaking of leather, sliding of his two toned gray asymmetrical robe against a knee length trimmed leather long sleeved brigandine hiding a black armorweave mesh tunic, and rustling of his wrapped trews and forearms, Thravang settled himself in the darkened booth. He leaned his back firmly against the wall as he idly watched the dancers. The lead dancer was some new species to him that he had never seen before. Rather lithe she was, with dark purple skin and what seemed to be amethyst purple eyes. Now that was a new eye color he hadn't seen before. What really grabbed his attention as he did his best not to let his jaw gape open was the appendages that flowed out of her head, one to each side. He wondered if that was natural to her kind, or some sort of construct to make herself more ... exotic. After a moment of intense scrutiny, it became apparent that those... appendages? were entirely natural. He simply didn't know what else to call those things. Tentacles? Tendrils, they definitely weren't. She had some fancy headdress on, and her ears weren't even human shaped. He tilted his head as he mused on those head tails with his hand supporting his heavily "bearded" chin resting on the table. A waitress had spotted him and approached him. He gave her a sidelong glance. At least she was dressed more modestly than those dancers, and he nodded cordially to her. The mousy brown haired human cleared her throat and asked "Is anything I can get you, sir?"

He blinked his eyes and straightened his back as his hand dropped to the table from his chin. A pause passed while he considered his options. A quick peer around the main room showed no sign of his Captain, so he had no one to ask for advice. He frowned before he finally replied "Have I will what people here order." He just would have to hope that the what was actually drinkable to him. Folks were known to have strange tastes, or so the Captain had told him during the trip here.

She nodded as she made a note of his order on her datapad and quickly scurried away as if he was someone to be obeyed. Which earned another frown from him. Sure, he was accustomed to specific treatment at home, but he wasn't that aristocratic in his bearing, or so he thought. Did he really give that impression? Were all the customers surly? Finally he shook his head and went back to his perusal of that fascinating dancer.

In the meantime, Captain Angfarod had shown Tosinec the ships that they were intending to sell, and they had set to haggling on the price per ship. All the ships were basically space worthy but needed repairs from the space battle they had been in over Thravang's home world. His people preferred to disable the ships to force them into planetside landings so they could be boarded with ground forces in order to preserve as much as possible. The pirates themselves? Well, that was an entirely different matter. After a brief but intense discussion, they agreed on fifty thousand credits each for a total of two hundred thousand credits. Tosinec counted out the credit sticks and handed them over to the Captain who smiled and nodded as he tucked them into his long jacket in various different spots. "Good deal, happy to have done business with you, Tosinec. You might get repeat business in the future from my employers." With a tip of his wide brimmed hat, Captain Angfarod turned around and went looking for his youthful escort. His crew filed into the Unbroken Mistress to change their dirty garb before they would settle into the crew lounge to play games and drink under the watchful tawny orange eyes of their second Tsis escort. That particular Tsis held himself in a reserved manner and spoke little. The Captain had strict rules about offshore leave - no offshore leave while on a job. It helped them keep a professional outlook, and got them more business since their bosses knew that they wouldn't start trouble off ship. They got paid better so his crew couldn't really complain about the rules.

Suddenly the lead dancer noticed Thravang sitting at his table in the darkened corner with his searching gaze on her, and there was a quiet intake of breath from him as she chuckled richly and motioned to the waitress to bring her his drink. Thravang was pretty positive that he had been spotted. He would have to wait and see what she was going to do next. He hoped it was nothing too exciting. He sat rooted to his spot as she slowly walked to his table. All eyes were on her. Dujikri! He had not wanted to draw attention to himself. He became tense as he readied himself for trouble as she drew right up next to his table. She looked him up and down with a slow appreciative smile "My you're certainly a mysterious fella, aren't you?" She fluttered her eyelashes at him in an alluring manner as his mouth actually sagged open in surprise. Definitely not the trouble he was expecting, but this was trouble of another sort. One he wasn't certain how to deal with. Sure, he had a lot of cultural discussions with Otheri, but it sure didn't include lessons on how to handle such blatant come-ons. Gracefully.

Right now all he could was stare at her in a mix of shock and surprise as his mouth gaped open to show his pointed teeth. She cooed to him "There, now, no need to get all uptight, mystery guy." She slowly sipped at his drink, certain that his eyes were on her since those silver orbs in the shadows of his hood rested squarely on her, and licked her lips. There was a blink from those eyes she found fascinating as Thravang slowly but firmly pulled his scattered thoughts together. At least her tongue hadn't been purple or some odd color. A normal pink. Quite unfortunately, he had forgotten that his mouth still hung ajar. There was another intake of breath, more sharp this time, as she slid her hand into the depths of his cowl to find his chin and closed his mouth. Of course, she just had to run the tip of one finger over his teeth before she had closed his mouth for him. She arched one supposedly fetching eyebrow as she oh so lightly guided her hand down one side of his jaw "I wager that you would look quite interesting in person," she all but purred while she rapidly ran some thoughts through her mind. He wasn't reacting the way she would have thought a male of his supposed species would. They were known to be quite aggressive, weren't they? Even one supposedly undercover and disguised. Granted, this one had a very strange style of garb, but his species were known to be eccentric in taste. She should have been in his lap and locked with his lips while she did.... other things. Perhaps time to try a different angle.

He managed to find his tongue and managed to stammer out "My.... drink?" He held out his hand, slightly shaking, for the glass. He was going to have to work on his composure, he decided, once he escaped from this... socially awkward situation he had unwittingly placed himself in.

She decided to shape her pale purple lips into a pretty pout "I'm sure there are things.. I can do for you," as she placed his drink in his hand. She lightly ran a hand over his bare hand and down his wrapped forearm. Hmm, there was armour hidden beneath the leather brigandine sleeve under the gray robe, and she noted that the grey sturdy leather was of very fine tanning and extremely soft to the touch. "Perhaps this, for example," she said just before she leaned in towards him as she made to kiss him. Some of the customers present were grinning as they hooted and clapped for him. Apparently they thought it was a good thing. A good thing this was not for him. He had to suppress his rising sense of outrage at such an invasion of his personal boundaries.

Sûdas! Thravang truly did not wish to be rude, but she was leaving him with precious few options. Just about when he was going to firmly shove her away with the Force, the Captain entered whistling a merry tune and saw the dire straits his escort had landed himself in. Choking back a laugh, he quickened his pace. Thravang rapidly shot a look at him that said Do something before I do. "Excuse me, miss!" Captain Angfarod planted a hearty smack on her rather lovely ass "You'll have to pardon me. I have unfinished business with this gentleman of yours." Thinking quickly, he leaned closer and whispered just loud enough for his escort to hear too "Besides, such a beauty as you wouldn't want to be responsible for him losing his rather admirable manhood, now do you? You see, he's promised to a woman back home, and she'll object quite strongly if she finds out that another woman sampled his goods first." With quite a genial smile and wink at her, the Captain slid into the bench opposite Thravang "However, there's no such issue with me," he gave her another considerably friendly wink.

The Twi'lek woman had quickly straightened and backed away from the table with a genuine sulk on her face. Damn! She would have to tell the others that their mark hadn't been cooperative, and that there was a complication to their mission. Namely the Captain. Nevertheless, she still did have a part to play and not blow her cover. She still possessed an irrational desire to really find out what lurked beneath those two toned grey robes and cowl of that man. He definitely wasn't behaving at all like what she and the others had expected. She turned to look over the Captain with a musing eye. Well he wasn't bad on the eyes, but she had the feeling that her target would have been ... quite ... exotic. "Well once you finish your business, Captain, feel free to return here and look me up. Name's Rada." With a flip of her lekku, she returned to the platform and resumed dancing. Damn! Double damn!

Otheri chuckled as he shook his head at his companion "Whew. Rather a narrow escape, that. She was about to kiss you." He paused and tilted his head as he lowered his voice "I find it odd that you didn't seem interested."

Thravang did not bother to remind the Captain of his manners. Now wasn't the time to bring it up. It would only serve to bring more attention than that dancer had. He took a large swallow of his beer "Not proper, that was." He cocked an eyebrow at the Captain to see if he caught the meaning behind his words. Thravang lifted his glass to his lips and drained the pint empty "Very shocked I was. Not give permission." He flicked a finger at the dancers "Do that many times?"

"In cantinas, yes," the Captain told him quite frankly. "It's a way for them to make extra coin to support themselves and their children." At Thravang's body language that indicated he was stunned at the words, he quickly added "Female dancers don't have husbands, as a general rule." The Captain suddenly had the sense that he had missed something in what Thravang had tried to say. What was it? There was a sense of outrage emanating from him, but why? Rada was quite a beauty, he should have felt very flattered to have drawn her attention. He was sixteen, wasn't he?

Thravang slowly shook his head as he muttered something in Tsis under his breath that sounded quite uncomplimentary "Well. Life not fair, I suppose." He still frowned, and his voice reflected his disapproval on the subject. He decided it prudent to change the subject so he wouldn't dwell on the dancer and her impropriety "How deal go with Tosinec?"

"We settled on 50 thousand credits per ship," Otheri told him. "It's a good price, considering that he has to repair them before he can sell them for a profit. It's part of business." Thravang bobbed his understanding as the Captain handed him his share "I've already taken my cut for myself and my crew."

There was a wordless assent as Thravang stuffed his share into secure hidden compartments inside his brigandine within his robes. "My thanks you have." He knew that the Captain would not have cheated on his pay, he wasn't that sort. His people carefully screened the people they hired to do some off the grid work for them. Besides, Otheri Angfarod knew too well the price he and his crew would pay if they ever did renege on their unwritten contract with the Tsis. "Now pay I for drink." He rose from the table and picked his way through the dancing crowd to the bar to speak with the bartender. He settled the tab with the tough looking man and then quietly added "This, give dancer name Rada. Tell her say I thank for … interesting lesson, aye?" The bartender laughed as he took the payment for both the drink and the dancer "I'll make sure to tell Rada that you said so."

Another wordless bow of his head, and Thravang spun around on his wrapped knee length boots and strode out of the cantina with the Captain hot on his heels. As soon as the two were gone, Rada made her way over to the bar to speak with the bartender. He handed her the little “tip” Thravang had left for her with a chuckle "Here you go, Rada. Said you made things too interesting." Rada could only twitch her head sideways in disbelief as she muttered an expletive then accepted the tip. "Right, thanks." She clocked herself out and disappeared through the black and blue curtained door behind the dancer platform to contact the others.

Double damn! He was here. Ordered a local drink. He did do a lot of staring at me, but it wasn't like the usual staring. You know what I mean. Tried to get all friendly with him, he just didn't react to me at all when I caressed him. Except that he was shocked and outraged. Was about to get more direct when his spacer friend arrived and smacked my ass to divert my focus. Decided it was best not to make scene and retreated. They're gone now. He might be what we suspect, but he's not acting like one of those. That accent of his sounds too genuine to be faked, but what a voice he has, it would make any girl weak in her knees. He even PAID for his drink and left me a tip. Be wary, and be alert. - Yrada

Did you see his face? - Jonas

No, just his gorgeous eyes, but I did get a feel for his face. He has the cheek tendrils, but they're much longer than normal and his beard feels far more full, but not full length. He sounded young to me, so maybe his beard is more “stubble” at this point, but he is no boy. Oh, did I mention that his teeth are pointy? And did I mention that his eyes are silver? - Yrada

"Tosinec" could only sigh with exasperation as he glared at the encoded message on his datapad from Yrada. He swiftly typed back and pressed send You silly girl. Only a girl like you could figure that out without seeing his face. How did you NOT manage to see his face? - Jonas

Fine, then you hit on him next time. I'll love to see THAT. His hood stayed up and he did not take it down. Like I said, I didn't want to make a scene. Now butt out if you don't want to take a turn at playing cantina dancer - Yrada

Meanwhile, the intrepid pair made their way back down the street to another shop. They were silently trailed by someone who took great pains to keep herself hidden in the shadows. Even when people glanced at her, they did not see the blonde haired, green eyed human nor the brown robes she wore with lightsaber hanging from her belt. The Captain paused in front of the door as he glanced up at the sign which said Aeten Miner Exchange. Thravang now wore a frown on his brow deep within his cowl. He kept sensing something on the edge of his awareness, but he didn't know what it was, and it kept bothering him. His hood kept twisting from side to side as he slipped through the door entry into the main room behind the Captain. He even had craned his head to look behind him a few times

The hidden shadow found a quiet nook in the side alley next to the exchange and sent word to the others Be especially wary. I have cause to believe that he can sense my presence in the Force. I've been trailing them since the cantina, and he keeps looking as if he can sense something, but isn't sure what it is. Captain gives no sign that he has noticed anything out of the ordinary. If our mark can wield the Force, he keeps it well cloaked. I will continue to trail but not certain how long I can. Be on the alert. - Briandi

Just great, what we need. A Force user that we have no knowledge about and is an enigma to us. Not good. At least we have you Jedi here to deal with him if necessary. - Jonas

Have no fear. He will be dealt with accordingly. All will be well in the end. - Iakan

They are here now. I'll get back to you once they are gone. - Callan

The person who ran the exchange turned to greet the pair with a shy but engaging smile. He had dark brown hair with chocolate brown eyes, and his skin was a dark olive tone, and his teeth were a pearly white as he continued to smile at the pair. He set his hands on the counter "Gentlemen, how may I help you today?"

Thravang let his silver eyes drift around the room as he stepped up to the counter and leaned against it with his elbow on the counter "Understand I that Aeten things from mines have?" The room was rather empty of wares. Instead, it had benches for people to sit on, and various monitors hung on the walls to display pertinent information. One monitor had running advertisements for positions to be filled. Another monitor showed the current mining quotas for the day. A third monitor displayed the safety regulations and company codes and how many days each mine had been accident free, and a fourth one had readouts on the current market prices for the various commodities that were mined on the planet.

Callan was suddenly interested and piqued. Why would this man want what he was asking for? He had to find out. "The mines produce certain minerals and crystals here. Aeten is rather known for stygium crystals."

Thravang silently raised an eyebrow at the mention of crystals. Well, now that was something his people could use. His people knew how to forge Force imbued weapons, but natural crystals were hard to come by so they had to synthesize their own. Many mines for gemstones they did have, but precious few that were suitable for use as crystals in those weapons. He pursed his lips in thought as he considered the matter before asking "Crystal price?"

"2 thousand credits per crystal," Callan told him "since there's no third party merchant involved. This would be a direct sale from the source to the buyer, as it were." Then the man waited to see what their mark would do next.

"Show crystal first." Thravang considered that to be a simple request that the merchant should have no problem meeting. It was only common sense. Come to think of it, the merchant hadn't introduced himself. On second thought, he did seem to be on the shy side. He was here to run the exchange, not chat.

There was a pause before Callan acquiesced to the rather imperious request. The male human went to one of the cases behind the counter, opened it and pulled out one crystal. He turned around and put it on top of the counter. Thravang studied the crystal for a long moment before he cautiously touched it with a clawed finger. His charcoal grey forearm wrappings ran down to his wrists, and hid most of a tattoo on his left hand and wrist. His hand skin was a maroon so dark to be near black, and ridged on the top of his hand. There was no reaction to his touch, so he picked up the clear crystal and peered at it from all angles. The crystal was a hexagonal prism ending at a six sided pyramid on top. He hefted it in his palm to test its weight, and found that it was not heavy, and it was only three inches in length. He made a deep "hmm" noise in his throat. A bit long for a weapon crystal, but it would serve. That was assuming that this type of crystal would work for the purpose he had in mind.. Not every crystal was the right type to be used as a component for their forgings. He gently placed it back down on the counter and surveyed the man. There was a presence about the man that niggled at him. He tilted his head at Callan and let his gaze roam up and down. Only the movement of his grey hood and his molten silver eyes indicated that he was studying the man. Callan did his best to remain stoic despite the intense scrutiny he was getting from the hooded visitor to his shop.

Captain Otheri Angfarod finally sensed that perhaps not all were as things should be. He touched Thravang on top of his gray mantle which covered the robes beneath. "Is there something the matter?" he inquired with concern in his voice.

"'Captain. Nothing wrong. Uneasy I am." There was one of his long pauses while he hunted for appropriate words "Too many.... unknown." He couldn't help but shrug "Feel I something hidden. Not trouble but,” he let his words trail off into oblivion as he patted his stomach, hoping that the Captain would understand what he was trying to convey.

Otheri wrinkled his forehead in hard thought as he rubbed his chin for a few moments before he ventured a guess “You mean that something's bothering you, but you don't know what it is, and you've got a gut feeling about it, but it's nothing too serious?”

Thravang now gave quite a pleased smile as he nodded eagerly “Aye.” Then he turned back to the human "How many I buy? No trouble.”

Callan rubbed a finger on his chin. Damn he's more clever than we estimated was his inner thought, but none of that showed on his face as he considered his answer. "Legally, I can allow you to purchase them, but I simply must know what you intend to do with them first."

Thravang regarded Callan for a long moment “Research, my people do." He tapped the crystal with a finger "Not many back home good for work. Most good only pretties." He pretended to be putting on various items of jewelry. "Buy only few." He tilted his head to consider the amount before he continued "Twenty. That few, not many."

Huh, only twenty? It can not be for weapon research. That few would not accomplish much, if anything. Plus, he speaks with a strange cadence to his speech, and his Basic is very badly broken was his new mental thought as Callan smiled "Twenty? That few, I can sell to you without having to go through this pile of requisition and authorization forms." He tapped another datapad with the appropriate forms and displayed all the forms to Thravang that he would have had to sign had he wanted a larger order.

Thravang whistled in dismay and shook his head at the datapad before he asked "Crystal twenty, price?” He tapped a finger on the counter as he counted up the quoted price "Forty thousand?"

Callan leaned closer as he dropped his voice low "For you, I'll cut a deal, since it's such a small order." He had a feeling that it was important to be on the man's good side when the time came to flush out their quarry. Besides, it was not as if he had committed criminal activities while here in port. Everything had checked out legit so far on the Captain's part. "Five thousand off the total if you pay upfront."

Thravang did not hesitate to agree after he glanced at Captain Angfarod to see if he had any objections. The man had given a thumbs up as his way of saying that it was a good bargain. He fished out the number of credit chips from within his robes and handed them over to Callan. In return, Callan placed a small crate of the crystals nested in a soft synth material within and he also provided the bill of sale with Callan's alias name Alistair Fralenn already affixed to the form. Thravang slowly deciphered the form with some whispered help from Otheri before he finally signed his name in a flowing strange script. The good Captain also signed the form since he was responsible for the transportation of the goods. There was a beep on the Captain's personal datapad to indicate that he had gotten a copy of the bill of sale and it had the legal shipment stamp affixed to it as well. Thravang removed the crate and handed it to the Captain "Take you this back ship. Stow it safe and good. Many shops I see, I look. Maybe something find for mother and sisters."

The Captain grinned "A man has to please the women in his life. Else, they can make his life hell." He gave Thravang a broad wink as he left the shop with the crate in a secure position under his arm.

Thravang turned and inclined his head at Callan "Thank you I. Good business. Farewell.” There was still something bothering him about the man. Something to do with his senses and the Force. Then he was gone through the door out onto the street.

As soon as the mark was gone, Callan pulled out his personal datapad and typed his message to the others He just left. He knows he is being watched. He does not feel like he is in danger, but be wary regardless. As Jonas has said, his accent was interesting to listen to. I can not pin it down. It is definitely not Imperial, though. It is far too heavy for that. He bought twenty stygium crystals for research purposes. Apparently, his people do not have access to many natural crystals on his world. Just what does he mean by "his people"? What is he? At this point it is far easier to say what he is not. He's not Sith, and he's not human. We all know how Sith would have behaved here, and his conduct has not been anything out of the ordinary for a stranger new to a planet and not familiar with the language. I fear that we are walking into the unknown now. I did not get a clear look at his visage, unfortunately. He gave me this look like I was bothering him in some way. He must be Force sensitive, he most likely sensed my presence. Also, I would like to note that the script he used to sign the papers with does not look like any modern language that the Jedi have studied. - Callan

Noted, Callan. Perhaps it is time that we take a more direct approach. We will have to carry it out carefully. It will do us no good if he feels threatened. He may not carry a lightsaber, but he is unknown to us so we can't plan on assumptions. Meet at our safe house to discuss our options. - Iakan

Thravang paused as he peered down both sides of the street as he considered what he wanted to browse first. Nothing too fancy or luxurious for the women, they were more the practical sort. What could he get them that they didn't already have? Suddenly he snapped his fingers, he just had an idea. Question was if there was such a shop here? Glancing back towards the cantina, he thought he had seen a shop that just might do for his purpose. He turned and started strolling down the street. Once more he had that niggling sensation he was being watched. He finally realized what was bothering him. That watcher was trying to shield his presence in the Force, and he was sensing that. No, wait, that felt more like a she, not he, as he searched nearby in the Force. Trouble was, he couldn't get a clear read on that female watcher, but it was definitely there. It also meant that the "merchant" he had just dealt with for the crystals had a Force presence. He had a similar feeling, but Thravang didn't know how to describe it. Yet. This would be the first time that any of his people had an encounter with Force sensitive people that weren't their own. He decided it was prudent to just carry on with what he wanted to do, but he would remain on the watch himself. So he simply walked at his own pace as he performed visual inspections of the wares being displayed in the front windows of the various shops. He smiled as he paused in front of the shop he had in mind. It was a garment store, but he wasn't interested in buying actual articles of clothing. Nothing here would have fit his mother at any rate. He palmed open the door and passed within.

The hidden shadow paused and slipped behind an old Lhosan duster and dropped to the ground soundlessly. She pulled out her datapad and sent a message He just went into Aeten Everyday and Fancy Apparel. Surely it can not be to purchase something for himself. There would be nothing in there to suit his taste, based on what I have seen of his garb. Definitely eccentric, that one.- Briandi

Oh, that reminds me, he did say something about perhaps finding something for his mother and sisters. Perhaps they are ... easier to fit? - Callan

How lovely, so he has family too? Frick! Great, one more thing to take into account. Can't have angry women looking to alter my handsome face. - Jonas

My dear, don't you _know_ that everyone has family? Even Jedi have family, of a sort, in the Order. Just not familial relationships. - Yrada

Ha! Yrada has a point - Iakan

Fine, fine, fine. I get the point. Let's focus on the matter at hand. - Jonas

The shop proprietor paused in her handiwork as the door snicked open. Her jaw dropped at the sight of the visitor that had decided to grace her shop. She had been embroidering an intricate geometric border onto a black veda cloth tunic at the seams and the hems with silvery white thread. There was a dry chuckle as he noticed the gray haired woman at the counter since he had taken note of her face expression "Lady, not here am I tryclothes." He already had ran his eyes over the selection of garments available for sale, and he knew that there was nothing he would consider trying on. He had expected as much.

His assurance got a little laugh out of the woman, and she put down her needlework on the counter. She sized him up after snapping her mouth closed and sighed as she conceded the unspoken point before she tapped a finger on the counter "Is there something I could help you with, perhaps?" She gave him a warm and engaging smile. There had always been rumors of Sith Pureblood seen among the ships that visited from time to time, but he did not act like one, and he was not garbed as such. No Sith had ever been known to wear such odd garb, nor did they speak with such an accent with such horrible Basic.

"Aye, maybe. Sell you unsewn cloth?" Thravang asked as he leaned over the counter to study her work, "Good eyes you have. Good fingers. Fine work." He tapped her embroidery with a black clawed finger.

The woman brightened at his praise "Oh, thank you. It comes with many years of experience at this." She waved a hand to take in all of her store and its contents hanging from racks and on stands. "My family has been here for generations, and my work is known off world. Miners can make great walking advertisements since they work many different places." Thravang simply nodded since it made logical sense to him. She remembered his question "Oh! Yes, I do sell fabric by the bolt, but might I inquire as to why?"

Thravang smiled as he listened to the woman's chatter before she finally got round to answering his question. He did not mind her prattling since she was clearly a master seamstress. "My mother my sisters, need I something them." he paused before he continued dryly "Bolt cloth, you say, easier. Fittings no worry." He was confident that the woman could figure out why.

She did as she laughed "I can see that." She tapped her fingers on the counter as she considered the matter. If she sold the bolt, she would have immediate ready coin, but no future commissions out of the bargain. "Tell you what. What about this, I sell you the bolt that you want, but you get me their measurements and arrange for custom work." She cocked her head at him with a measuring look.

He crossed his arms and leaned against a wall as he took his time to consider her offer. He understood why she had made that offer. A business like hers would depend on repeat customers, commissions, and word of mouth. "Do you this all?" he asked idly as he waved at the entirety of her business with his right hand as he stroked his right cheek tendril with his left index finger.

"Oh, I have two daughters who help me with this. I do the fine fiddly things that take only experience. They're very good though, it'll just take time for them to be as good as I am," she told him.

"Experience need time," he answered "Family business this, then. Very good." He straightened up as he came off the wall as he gave her a decisive nod "Very well. Aye. Your terms, agree." He held up a finger “Do knot rope, I shall not. No lady, I am.”

She giggled at that "Of course not, that would be quite improper." She beckoned him over as she lifted up the door in the counter top at the very end of the other wall to create a gap through which he could pass into the workshop area of her store. She took him to the room where she kept the bolts of fabric. The front door opened again, and she excused herself to attend to the new customer as she left him to examine the stock.

A young man with black hair cut short had entered the shop. He wore a red jacket, black breeches with black boots and had a few tiny round cybernetic implants around his left eye. The seamstress noted that particular feature with a slightly raised eyebrow "Well, young man, what can I do for you?" She sized him up and smiled just slightly. He was nice and easy on her old eyes, that was for certain. He flushed as he realized what her appreciative gaze was for and hastily held his hands up in a warding motion "Um, no thank you. Not that way." He quickly scanned the shop interior and asked "Would you have happened to see an ... acquaintance of mine? Mysterious guy in two tone gray robes, hooded and commanding air to him with heavy accent and very bad Basic?"

"Of course, sugar, I sure have seen him, but why do you ask?" The seamstress asked quite curiously. Thravang hadn't said anything about meeting someone here, and she sure wasn't about to risk losing a possible new source of income. The red jacketed man rapidly did a re-think and decided on a change of tactics "I was just looking for him to pass a message on to him. Before he leaves, ask him to meet me at the cantina." He smiled "You know, for a friendly drink and chit chat." Then before the lady could make eyes at him again, he hastily slipped out. Once outside, he heaved a rather relieved sigh then signaled to the hidden shadow across the street that their mark was still inside and to keep watch. He then pointed in the direction of the cantina and started sauntering down the street that way. He hadn't seen that strange hooded man in the main room, so where was he? The seamstress wasn't worth a sabaac bet as an actress so she wasn't in any danger or distress. Perhaps he was in the older lady's workshop. He doubted that the mark was getting it on with the old lady, he hadn't shown any interested in the Twi'lek dancer who was considerably younger and far more pretty. So it had to be something more private, perhaps he was getting measured for a possible commission. Yes, that had to be it. He nodded sagely to himself just as he stepped inside the cantina only to be accosted by the same Twi'lek dancer that had hit on Thravang.

Meanwhile, Thravang had been studying the bolts in the little storage room he had been shown to and left alone. Now the charming older woman returned and he smiled, even though the woman couldn't see it because of his deep cowl. He gave her a nod "Things go well?" He returned to his perusal as he rubbed his bearded chin with his deep maroon hand. He had already raised an eyebrow over one bolt of a shadowy black cloth he had spotted. The cloth was made of such a fine material that it was translucent and glimmered like moonfire in the light cast by the hanging lamp. Garments made from it would leave precious little to the imagination. He had shaken his head even as he fingered the material. Smooth and slippery the touch was, and he knew that it would make a fine gift for his wife someday when he married. Just not appropriate for his mother nor sisters. He pointed to the bolt of cloth and merely commented "What that? High price, must be."

She looked where he pointed and grinned at him as she answered "Oh yes it does cost a fair bit, as you've put it. Oh, the material is what we call zoosha cloth. Comes in many colors, you see, but that's what I have on hand. Got a girl in mind, have you?" She was quite surprised when he shook his head at the question.

"Nay. Someday in future." He then slid his finger to another bolt of cloth, this time a deep wine red brocade velvet with a pattern of trees and leaves in antique gold thread woven into the fabric. "Like this, I do. Price?"

She regarded his choice "You know this is heavy weight fabric, right?"

"Aye. Cold season long and hard. Keep warm, this."

She nodded "Very well, there hasn't been any demand for that fabric despite its lovely coloring and pattern, so I suppose I can let you have the whole bolt." She tapped a finger on her lips "Price... hmm." She reached for and pulled the bolt out of the rack and set it aside. "Are you done looking?"

He gave her stock a final look over and then nodded "Aye. Later, look more." He pointed at a few more bolts of fabric he wanted to examine later. “This, enough.”

She beckoned to him to follow as she hefted the bolt and carried it out from the workshop back to the counter top and set the rich warm material down. He went around the gap in the counter top and shut the door in place. Now he leaned over the counter and watched as she wrapped the entire bolt in a protective covering. Now she peered up at him with age faded blue eyes and a soft smile "Alright, now you handsome young man, let's settle the price, and don't forget our agreement."

He gave a simple nod "No fear. Keep word, I will. Need name your for their knowing." She nodded and held a hand out for his datapad. He pulled his out of his belt pouch. The datapad was rather small and fairly antiquated, but it still worked perfectly for his purposes "Lady, go you here." Together they discussed the wording of the agreement and both signed the agreement on his datapad. Once that was done, he made a few additional swipes on the datapad and suddenly the words became unreadable in a strange script. He looked quite satisfied and tucked his datapad back inside his belt pouch. "Price?"

They had a rather cordial haggle over the price until a bargain was struck, and he forked over the credits to her. She gave him a twinkling smile that dimpled her cheeks as she transferred the credits into her business account from the register. "Alright, that's it then. I must say, I'll be disappointed if I don't see you again soon."

He gave a wry chuckle and shrugged as to say it was beyond his control for now. "If duty say I return, I will. Now? Know I not. Other may come."

She slipped a hand inside his cowl to pat him on the cheek of his hood "That'll do, but I still want to see your face sometime. This old girl is full of curiosity about you, young man. Oh by the way, someone came by and said he wanted to meet you at the cantina. Friendly chat and drink, he said." She gave a girlish giggle "He was easy on the old eyes, that one. Red jacket, black pants, black boots. Dark hair, gray eyes." She paused then added "Oh! He's human too."

He arched an eyeridge at that "Thank you I must for message." Not again! He had just had his personal space invaded, his person touched. All without consent. Although, he found that he had not minded the old lady so much with his sense of outrage a mere simmer. Her touch had been far more …. grandmotherly. There had been nothing remotely sexual about the way she had touched him. Did all women on Aeten have no inhibitions about touching men unknown to them? She waved to him as he picked up the wrapped bolt and tucked it under his arm before striding out of the store. He had given her a final incline of his head in farewell "Lady, fare you well." then he was gone with the door snicking shut behind his retreating back.

He just left the store with a long package under his arms. Perhaps a bolt of something, judging by the length. Heading to the spaceport, I think, to drop it off. - Briandi. Once again the shadow ghosted him.

He strode down the street until he spotted the anxious looking Captain pacing the street just outside the spaceport "Captain. Stow you this safe. This, take home." He handed the human the wrapped parcel "'Cloth pretty, give mother and sisters, I."

The Captain nodded "I'll make sure of it, my Lord."

There was a sense that Thravang now sported a frown hidden deep within his hood, and he stood there for a long heartbeat before he made his mind up. “Meeting, I have. Strange man, come looking, say meeting he with me. Sense I meeting must go. Precaution, I take must.” He walked up the ramp and entered the ship to speak with the other Tsis escorts inside.

There was a very short but intense argument in a strange language between the Tsis, before the older adults reluctantly had to agree that only Thravang could go to this meeting. There were a total of six escorts from the Tsis present, and only Thravang could speak Basic well enough to be actually understood, even as rudimentary as his was. Thravang slipped the eldest adult the pouch from within his robes that contained the monies they had gained for selling the ships. Despite his trade for the cloth and the crystals, there were still plenty of credits left to be added to the currency funds that his people held in reserve to deal with the outlanders that traded with them.

When Thravang emerged from the shadows of the ship's entry door, the Captain sighed "I think you're too right about that." He shook his head as he checked his blasters in his holsters "It bothers me that we don't know who. Not pirates, surely, or you would know." At those words, there was a shake of his hooded escort's head. The Captain resumed speaking "I best see to the crew, then prepare for trouble." He clapped Thravang's shoulder "Best luck to you in the cantina. At least, it's in a public place. Too many witnesses to silence."

There was a sour grunt of agreement from Thravang before he replied "Aye, there that. Thank you. Leave you it, I will." He turned to head north on the street once more towards the cantina after returning Otheri's shoulder clasp. Once again, he had been touched. The human Captain had meant well, though. It was becoming quite clear to him that perhaps it was only his people that had such a strong sense of propriety and that he would have to adapt to that or else spend his time feeling outraged.

Be on the alert, he comes. He was talking to the Captain, and he suspects trouble brewing. He had gone inside the ship, argued with more than one person, judging by the voices that I managed to overhear, then came back out. The argument was in some language strange to my ears. He is not the only one of his kind here. The Captain didn't look too worried, but who knows what our stranger is thinking? We might be dancing on thin ice. Briandi hastily sent as she hurried to get ahead of him on the street so she could slip into the cantina and get into position. Just in case.

His nostrils flared as he had that niggling presence nagging his awareness again. This time, the presence wasn't too careful about shielding from him, and he was able to sense the presence moving up the street. He shook his head and silently clasped his right hand around the hilt of his warblade for a sense of reassurance. Just what am I walking into? he whispered to himself in his mind. He reached out in the Force to get a better grasp on his surroundings and encountered three presences that shone blue to him in the cantina. Ah. The same blue that the hidden watcher and the crystal merchant had, come to think of it. He did not sense any intentional malice from them, only deep worry and intense uncertainty, and they did not feel evil to him. Beneath their worry and uncertainty, he sensed their … sense of serenity? That did not serve him in any form to feel reassured, however. Danger came in many forms, known and unknown.

He warily stepped into the cantina and scanned the interior carefully. His nostrils flared as he spotted the red jacketed man the seamstress had spoken of. Thravang looked him up and down and supposed that he was handsome to the old girl. Women and their desires. He had often heard his father lamenting about how strange women could be especially after a disagreement with his stepmother. That unbidden memory brought a wry smile to his lips for a moment. A fleeting moment that was all, then it was gone. He slowly made his way over to where the red jacketed man sat, step by step, his senses fully on alert and his muscles tense for action. His mysterious contact sat with another man who went hooded, and was clad in robes of pale and medium brown. He also carried a lightsaber clipped to his belt. The smugglers had shown him holos of people fighting with those weapons, so he had recognized it as being such. The hooded stranger was a Force warrior, then. It was enough to pique Thravang's curiosity, but not enough to quell the sense of unknown dubiety he was walking into. He did note that the red jacketed man had holstered guns and not a single weapon in his line of sight was drawn. He did not let his guard down, however, nor did he remove his hand off the hilt of his warblade he was grasping tightly. Here, he was only one man and bereft of any support from his kin and kith. The other escorts were too far away to render him timely assistance should he be in need of.

The second man glanced at Thravang's extremely wary approach and sighed heavily as he read Thravang's body language that spoke of heightened alert and distrust "We only seek answers to questions we have about you, stranger. At present, there is no danger to you, unless you bring it here yourself." With that said, he poured a cup of steaming hot tea from the kettle on the table and placed it in front of the spot left open at the table for Thravang. Another measuring glance from the pale brown hooded man "This tea is a traditional calming drink that I often drink when I am troubled."

Thravang paused in front of the table as he eyed the two men slowly. The red jacketed man held up his hands to show that he meant no harm as the man swallowed nervously. There was the sense that things could rapidly go south if this stranger felt very threatened. After all he did have his hand on the hilt of his warblade which did look like a very ancient weapon design of the Sith. Patrons slowly started edging their way out of the main room away from the knot of tension that was Thravang. The hooded head turned to study them out of mere curiosity, and that only served to hasten their retreat from what they deemed a volatile situation. There was a long weary sigh as the stranger understood why the patrons were leaving before he gingerly took his seat on the other side of the table in front of the two men. He was not accustomed to this feeling that others thought he was a danger to them. It did not sit well with him. Outlanders could be so strange and silly. A long silence followed before he finally slipped his right hand off his warblade and placed his hands on the table when it became clear to him that the two men were not going to become violent with his person.

Thravang flexed his left hand slowly before dipping a finger in the tea and tasting it. There had been an intake of breath from the men when they had seen the black claws at the end of his fingers and surely they hadn't missed the fact that he only had four fingers, nor how such a deep maroon his skin was that it was nearly black. Satisfied that the tea was just ordinary tea, Thravang picked up the mug and took a sip. Deep silver eyes regarded the men from within the hood in a guarded fashion. The brown robed man made a slight nod before he reached up to his own hood and pulled it back and downwards to reveal his face. He had green skin, dark green eyes that seemed serene, and dark brown hair in a simple ponytail hanging down his back.

"What you?" Thravang blurted the question out before he could stop himself.

"I could ask the same of you, traveler," came the placid answer. "I am Mirialan."

There was a long quiet moment as Thravang surveyed the man. His hood tilted this way and that way as he took a good long look at the Mirialan. Not wishing to be seen as discourteous, Thravang's left claws reached up and closed around the edge of his hood hem before his fingers slid the cowl down to his neck. In the sudden shocked quiet, Thravang strove to match the peaceful manner that the other man had spoken in as he sipped more of the brown tea. The red jacketed man nearly grabbed his blasters before a green hand stopped him from drawing "Theron." There was a firm shake of the Mirialan's head "There is no need to."

The green skinned man now steepled his fingers on top of the metal table as he regarded Thravang's now revealed face. Sith he seemed like, yet he was not. A puzzle indeed. He bore an extremely strong resemblance to the Sith Pureblood race, but... yet there were suggestions that he wasn't wholly of that race. He just didn't look that human. He looked even more alien than that race did. He tapped a finger "Pardon me, but are you Sith Pureblood?" he finally asked just to make certain.

"Sith Pureblood?" Sharp lines appeared on his heavily ridged forehead as Thravang grimaced at the question before shaking his head. His long cheek tendrils and developing beard tentacles jerked that way and this way before they settled after he stopped. "Tsis I am." His tone made his statement quite unequivocal.

The Mirialan raised an eyebrow before he pulled out a handheld holoprojector from a belt pouch and displayed a hologram of a Sith Pureblood male in boxer shorts. "This is a Sith Pureblood. You look rather much like one."

Thravang peered at the flickering blue figure and shook his head once more "That .. too .." He flicked a finger at Theron to indicate that he meant human. He pointed at the hologram again "Not Tsis."

The same Twi'lek woman who had hit on him came through the curtain at the back of the dancer platform, caught a glimpse of him, and her amethyst eyes widened "Oh my stars!" She sidled up to the table and Thravang was quick to hold up a hand and shook his head at her as his skin turned a shade more near to black. He was clearly discomforted now, and the Mirialan chuckled wryly. "Now, you're certainly handsome, make no mistake, you have such gorgeous eyes" she purred as she plunked down next to him. He quickly inched down the bench away from her until his back was squarely against the wall. The Twi'lek woman pointed at his eyes and asked "Tell me, Master Iakan, are Sith Purebloods known for silver eyes?" The Mirialan shook his head in wordless reply to that question. She ran a finger over the extensive ridging on his face "I don't think I've ever seen a Sith Pureblood like this, either." She cocked an eyebrow at the Mirialan who admitted "No, they are ... muted." Her hand flowed down his neck from his face to his broad shoulder "Hmm, his neck is heavily ridged too. So he can't be one." Then she proceeded to caress his right arm as she winked at him "If you ever get interested in some action, gorgeous eyes, make sure to look me up."

Thravang dropped his tea cup at that point but managed to keep the rather lovely white porcelain cup from scattering on the table with the Force as the cup hovered an inch above the surface. The Mirialan cleared his throat just then "Yrada! You're flustering him, you shameless wench." He reached for the hovering drink and settled it on the table with a sharp glance at the Tsis sitting there like a cornered beast. A rather calm one if rather flustered, but still potentially dangerous. "You use the Force." It was a statement not a question. Thravang strove to rein in his sense of being outraged at being manhandled again by that … woman.

Thravang gave him a pointed glance "All Tsis." It felt like a silent challenge being issued by the young Tsis. He wanted to see what they were going to do.

The Mirialan raised an eyebrow but smiled gently as he rose to the challenge "So be it then. I am Jedi Master Iakan Zovarr and my companion is Agent Theron Shan and," here his smile became decidedly amused, "that is Agent Yrada Kella." At her introduction, Yrada made kissing noises at Thravang who buried his head in the palm of his left hand with his eyes squeezed shut. Once more his deep maroon skin turned a shade darker to indicate his embarrassment. Yrada continued to finger his right arm and He finally sat straight as his left hand left his face to point at Iakan "Jidai?"

"No, I said Jedi," Iakan corrected him but he lost some of that serenity in his tone as he became quite confounded. This stranger said he was Tsis, yet he looked Sith Pureblood. He did not behave like a Sith either. He was far too … civilized and well behaved to be a member of that Order.

"Jidai."

"Jedi. J e d i. Jedi." Iakan repeated with just an edge of annoyance to his voice. Yrada stifled a giggle. It wasn't often that someone got to the Jedi Master that way.

Thravang tapped a finger idly on the table as he watched a female figure materialize out of nowhere in his field of vision. It was the same blonde haired, green eyed woman that kept shadowing him. She was clad in two shades of brown, one darker and one lighter, and she wore a tunic, trews and an overtunic version of the robes that Iakan wore, but far more appropriate to sneaking around. He simply glanced at her and gave her a slight incline of his head "At last, watcher my herself show." He sipped his tea again as he waited to see her reaction.

She stared at him for a heartbeat, but didn't reach for her dual lightsaber "You knew." Once again, it was a statement and not a question.

"Aye. Shadow your I sense in Force." Thravang arched an eyeridge as he waggled a finger at her. Yrada had to smother another giggle at the scene of a Jedi being scolded "No... shadows hidden Tsis need home." There was a thread of warning in his voice. Back home, no one would have dared to spy on him. The Tsis had implicit trust in House Vadarisaz and that the ruling line needed no watching and would do right by their people to the best of their abilities.

He turned back to the Jedi Master watching him carefully "Jidai. J i d a i. Jidai." He made it a point to copy the same tone that Iakan had used and watched as the Mirialan become just a bit shade more annoyed. Yrada stifled even more giggles and clapped a hand to her mouth before more could escape.

The Jedi Master's mouth worked for a moment before he finally regained his composure "Is that the best you can do, Tsis?" he inquired with just a note of sarcasm.

"Aye." Thravang crossed his arms across his chest casually. "Basic not my tongue mother." Then he inclined his head towards the Jedi Master "I am Thravang Isâhur Rath." Best not to mention his other titles to those outlander strangers, and best not to get very formal with people he knew nothing about. He had the sense it would not go over well with them.

Master Iakan startled at hearing the surname Rath. For some reason, that name was vaguely familiar to him. Where had he heard that name before? He would have to do some research in the archives. This Thravang had issues pronouncing Jedi, and he had a very strange accent, and Basic wasn't his native language. All very interesting notes.

Callan walked in just then. Thravang's head swiveled around as he recognized the man and gave another incline of his head. Callan surveyed the cantina now empty save for the little knot of people gathered at one table and the employees with courage enough not to have fled and asked "What happened to everyone else?" There was nothing to indicate violence. No blood stains, no bodies, no people screaming outside or cowering in fear.

"Too fearful, they were." Thravang shrugged his shoulders in a bemused manner as he peered at Iakan. “Sith Pureblood, I look too much.”

"All the Sith Purebloods we have seen so far have always been Sith, and yes they are very bad people." Iakan told him then frowned as a thought occurred to him. "Tell me, what do you know about current galactic events?"

Thravang poured himself a fresh cup of tea and studied the rippling brown liquid for a long pause before he answered the question. There had been a sense that he was mentally translating the question, just as he had for every question or comment. "Very little. Keep own business, we do. Smugglers trade welcome." His lips quirked at the corners of his lips "Pirates not welcome."

A new male voice entered the conversation "And that would explain the ships." It was the man who had identified himself as Tosinec to Thravang and Captain Angfarod. "So that's what you look like. Sith Pureblood but... " here Jonas gave Thravang a puzzled expression.

"Last time I say, am Tsis, NOT Sith Pureblood." Thravang now sounded exasperated as he reached a finger over to tap the holoprojector "Sith Pureblood too human."

"Perhaps, but you'll have to convince the Jedi Council of that," Master Iakan felt compelled to point out to Thravang. "All anyone will see when they look at you is Sith Pureblood."

"When was the last time your people had full contact with the galaxy?" Callan asked quietly.

A shrug and a long pause followed that question. Thravang's brow ridges ceased as he thought hard on how to answer that question. He had tried emphasizing that he wasn't Sith Pureblood, and that was not working. He kept getting mistook for whatever they were, and it was annoying him to no end since he did not have the proficiency in Basic to be clear, concise and precise.

Finally he ventured with an answer “Long long time ago. Many count of year. Bad thing happen, people leave old home. Move new home. Want peace and quiet. Not keep old ways. Keep old tongue, we do.”

Master Iakan absorbed Thravang's words and pressed a hand to his temple. What was he going to do with this young man and his people? They were not Jedi and they weren't Sith either. Thravang's nature, sensed through the Force, definitely was not that of a Sith.

Knight Callan brightened at Thravang's explanation “Master Iakan, didn't the Jedi Archives speak of Sith Pureblood that weren't evil? Known records seem to have stopped at least a few centuries ago, though.”

Master Iakan looked at Callan for a moment, then smiled “Callan, I think you have hit on the heart of our mystery. Yes, that would make sense considering what Thravang has told us. His people must be a colony of Sith Purebloods that did not wish to serve the Empire, but they must have left long ago enough to have preserved considerably more of the original Sith blood in their lines.” He indicated Thravang's appearance with a nod.

Master Iakan returned his attention to Thravang and asked “Do your people serve the Sith Empire or Emperor?”

Thravang's reaction was instant once he had figured out the question “No. King we have. Empire, we not know, serve. Emperor, we not know, serve.” There was no doubt that he spoke the truth. It was there for all to sense in the Force.

It was only a few moments before Master Iakan reached a decision. He decided to err on the side of caution and used a Sith title to address the strange man sitting at the table with them, perhaps it would be considered more polite. "Lord Thravang, I must apologize, but we must take you before the Jedi Council. You will speak for your people before them. You are not a prisoner, but if you do not return with us, it will create difficulties for your people since you are near Republic space. The only Force users legally recognized in Republic territory are the Jedi." He paused to see if Thravang understood his words, both spoken and unspoken. And to see if he had objected to being called Lord Thravang.

Thravang used the time to think as he slowly emptied his tea cup. At long last he spoke with a frown on his face “Understand, I think. Wield the Force, I do. Jidai, I am not. Threat my people considered because Jidai they not. Aye?”

Master Iakan gravely nodded “You have summed it up rather tidily, Lord Thravang.” There had been no comment to his usage of the title, so he had been correct about his assumption that Thravang's people were originally from Imperial space. “That is why we must take you before our Council, so they can try to assure the Republic that your people are no threat. The Senate may have other ideas, however.”
What Master Iakan did not say was that the Order would have to reassure itself. Under the tenets of the Order, Thravang's people would be considered gray and dangerous.

“Mean you Senate may not say my people …” Thravang hunted for a word he didn't know and finally settled for “not bad, not good... middle?”

Iakan thought about what Thravang would be trying to convey and asked “Are you asking that the Senate possibly would not acknowledge that your people wish to be neutral and left alone?”

“Aye,” Thravang answered tersely.

Master Iakan spread his arms wide open “Lord Thravang, there is that distinct possibility. The Senate is made up of many different voices, and they often do not agree on matters.”

Thravang's frown deepened as he poured himself a third cup of the tea. They hadn't stopped him from pouring tea, so it seemed he was free to help himself to the tea as much as he wished, as long as he remained.

It looked like he needed to become the public face for his people so this Order and this Republic could be assured that his people meant no harm. He would have to serve as the unofficial ambassador. He brooded over that, he was not certain if he was up to that task. He thought about the other Tsis that had come as escorts and mentally grimaced. No, he would have to step up to that task. Out of the Tsis present on Aeten, he was the best choice, if barely. He had a better command of Basic compared to the others, and there was also the fact that he was from House Vadarisaz to consider. Plus his temperament and personality would be better suited. His youth might even be an asset.

“Become I Jidai, then no problems, aye?”

"More or less," Master Iakan told him. "If you join the Order, we most assuredly can make sure that your people are left alone by the Republic, provided that they don't attempt to grab Republic territory."

He immediately waved that concern off with a shake of his head. "No. My people, war not interested. Peace and quiet we want." Thravang answered as he leaned forward towards the other men. He even had forgotten about Yrada who had the hots for him. His people simply wished to live in peace. "Tell me you about Jidai. Join I will not, if stupid reason. Serve I with care my King and people.”

"Lord Thravang, you can still serve your people this way. Through you, the Republic will come to see and understand your people and that your people are nothing like the Sith Pureblood of the Sith Order. Those Sith use the Force to commit great deeds of evil. I can show you what I mean, but we would have to travel to Tython since that is where the Jedi Order keeps their library archives," Master Iakan said earnestly.

Callan nodded and added "Lord Thravang," here he squirmed and fidgeted at addressing someone by the title Lord, "we Jedi serve the Light side of the Force. We strive to keep the peace and order in the Republic. We aid people in need. We guard the weak and the ill when there are no others to do so. We protect the children and the elders. We are servants in our fashion, like you with your people."

Briandi finally chipped in "And there is this to consider. The Sith kill those that are too old or too weak to join the Sith Order. They don't hesitate to kill children if it suits their whims. They don't hesitate to kill servants and military personnel if they make errors. They are a very unforgiving Order, and they only serve themselves, not their people. Fundamentally, they are the opposite of what the Jedi stand for, Lord Thravang. Think of what they might do to your people should the Sith Empire find them."

“Deal them like pirates, we will.” Thravang replied swiftly. He didn't think anyone would be prepared to take on an entirely Force sensitive people that were also their own sovereign authority. “Need still I see myself. Stranger I am, land strange, custom strange. Archives your, neutral?” He was slow and careful to pronounce the new word.

"Most assuredly. We Jedi are noted for being impartial, we often serve as diplomats for treaties and mediators for disputes," Master Iakan replied in a sober tone.

Thravang tapped his fingers on the table as he studied the two Jidai not seated at the table before he finally pointed a finger at the twain “What you two?”

"I am Callan Yiadizias, and she is Briandi Thachask. We both trained as Consular shadows. We're the Jedi version of spy and assassin," the human male told him. Thravang had felt his eyeridge rise at the mention of assassin. He shook his head in distaste at the notion. His people had no need for assassins. Spies and agents, he understood, there were a need for those, they just weren't employed by the Tsis.

"As distasteful as the work may be at times, there has been need for it, and who better than Jedi who can be detached and not carry out the orders blindly," Master Iakan remarked. Thravang still made a face in distaste, even as he understood what Iakan had meant about not following orders blindly.

He returned to finger tapping on the table and sipping at his tea as he considered the matter at hand. As a member of House Vadarisaz, any decision he made here would have a great impact on the Tsis in the future, so he was going to have to thread carefully. One thing for certain, he knew that he was not going to inform them what he really was. It would be safer for the Jidai to assume what they had.

Only when he had completely drained his cup did he speak once more. The others had been content to let him sit and contemplate things in silence. At least the Jedi did. The SIS agents kept exchanging looks. All eyes turned to him when he cleared his throat to grab their attention. He set aside his tea cup "Very well. Travel with you, I will. Speak to Council, I will. Decision I make then. Not before. That fair enough, aye?”

Master Iakan slowly nodded “It is fair enough.”

Thravang turned to scoot out of the booth and found himself blocked by Yrada who grinned at him. He held her off with a shake of his head “Consent you must ask. Consent I give not.”

Yrada mock pouted “Why not, Lord Thravang? It's just harmless fun. I can promise you that you won't be hurt. You'll have a really good time, I can promise that."

"My youth. Ten and six change of seasons I have."

"Lord Thravang, that's old enough. By our standards, you're an adult." Yrada protested. "Surely you want to have a roll in the bed sheets before you run off to join the Order?"

“Lady, my people not same. Need I four more changes of season. Then possible for what you say fun.” Thravang bluntly told her even as his skin flushed a darker tone. “Older child not adult, I am still.”

Now Yrada really did sulk. Such a fine looking specimen, and he wasn't even old enough by his people's standards to do the deed, but more than old enough by her standards.

Thravang patted her awkwardly, as if he wasn't accustomed to trying to comfort a stranger that he had denied consent to. He sensed that Yrada wasn't really a bad person, she just hadn't understood the customs about consent that his people abided by . "Later, speak we will again. Tell stories, laugh. Play games." He glanced at Master Iakan questioningly. He was not sure what the Jidai would permit if he joined that Order.

"Only thing that the Order prohibits outright is emotional attachments," Master Iakan said quite dryly.

Callan chuckled in that shy fashion of his "And using the dark side, obviously."

"Fair enough. Yrada, that serve?" Thravang asked the agent. He really didn't want to leave her on such a bad note. She might make a good friend, and an agent would be very useful in certain situations.

"It'll do, handsome," Yrada finally stopped sulking and leaned in to kiss him on the cheek and tweaked the tendril hanging from that cheek before she slid off the bench and let Thravang out of the booth. With a saucy wink at him, she sauntered out of the cantina swinging her hips back and forth.

Thravang watched her leave and shook his head "Always Yrada like that?"

"She can be quite flirty," Master Iakan said judiciously. "Nevertheless, she is quite good at her work as an agent. You're just the first that she's failed to seduce in a long time now." The Jedi Master closed his eyes for a moment then said "It is time we should be going with our new charge." He glanced at Thravang.

Agents Shan and Balkar nodded " May the Force be with you, Master Iakan," before they slipped through the back door into the cantina kitchen, and presumably out the rear to return to Coruscant in their own shuttle with Yrada and make their reports to the SIS.

“Iakan Master, must send word my people,” Thravang told him. “Must say I journey with you, act what you say .. diplomat my people. Must tell my reasons.”

The Jedi Master nodded “Go then. We will accompany you to the spaceport and await you there.”

In the company of the Jidai, Thravang left the cantina to return to the spaceport. Once there, he walked up to a surprised and greatly relieved Captain “All well now, I think.” He gestured to the three people “Travel I must with them. Council, I speak.”

Captain Otheri Angfarod and his crew had been shocked speechless to see Lord Thravang return with his hood down. He had forgotten to put it back up, and had gotten all sort of stares and looks from the local denizens as the group had passed them by on the main thoroughfare. There had been no outright hostility, but that was only because the Jidai had accompanied him.

“Jedi! I didn't know there were Jedi here. Don't need to tell me why you have to go with them, my Lord.” Otheri did pause long enough to look for any evidence of fighting and saw that there were none “I see that there was no fighting.”

Thravang shook his head “Fight, foolish. No reason. Lot talking.”

He nodded to the Captain before he walked into the ship to speak with the other Tsis. This time, there were no raised voices, only tones of concern and worry. There was a lengthy discussion in the strange speech before there was agreement. Thravang composed a personal message to his father and outlined his new new mission and the reasons why he had undertaken the decision. Naturally he had composed it in the Tsis language.

Dear Father

We have been finally revealed. The galaxy will become aware of us before we are ready for such a thing. I must travel and serve as envoy to learn of the Outlanders and their ways. I will travel with a group of people that serve the Force as we do. They will teach and train me so I can understand the galaxy at large. Then I will be able to instruct you and our people on how to best survive in the days to come. This I sense I must do, the Force has spoken. If you view this objectively, you will have to agree that I alone can serve our people in this matter. Do not blame our trading allies, this was inevitable. I shall miss all of you dearly. I will return when I am able to.

Thravang

He then gave his personal datapad to the same Tsis that he had turned the credits over to “Make sure that you deliver this to the King. Tell him that there is a message for his eyes alone. Give the wrapped package to the Consort, she will know what to do with it. Give the crate to the Lord Marshal, he'll know what to do with it.” He turned to his supervisor “Do not blame yourself. The Force meant for this to happen.” He then made his formal farewells to them, and stepped back outside.

Now Thravang turned to the Captain and gave him a friendly pat on the shoulder “Now must I take leave you, Captain. Good knowing you, was. Give your holofrequency. Will keep touch.”

"But, Lord Thravang, how will you return home? Where are you going?" Otheri blurted out in his concern for the young Tsis male. The Captain had come to like him rather a great deal. He had been very affable, that one. The Captain knew in his heart that he wasn't Sith. He simply didn't act like one.

"Worry you too much. Find way I will home when time right. Trust Force I must.” Thravang awkwardly put an arm around the human's shoulders in a gesture meant to reassure him. "Where? Go with the Jidai I must.” He indicated Master Iakan and the other two Jedi accompanying the Master. Thravang squeezed the Captain's shoulder with his hand "Will I be fine.”

Still frowning, the Captain scribbled down his holofrequency on a piece of flimsy that was laying on top of a crate near the Unbroken Mistress, and handed it to him "I'll do my best to keep in touch with you, my Lord. So you'll be going to Tython then." The Captain paused and shook his head "Never thought I would encounter the Jedi myself. No offense meant, Master Jedi." He gave the Jedi Master and two Knights polite nods. He also gave Lord Thravang an opaque look; he hadn't missed how Thravang kept mispronouncing Jedi.

Thravang smiled warmly as he accepted the flimsy and tucked it into a pouch on his belt "Many thanks, Captain. Force serve you. Fare you well, we meet again one day." He did not have much to take with him. His personal datapad was going back home for security reasons. It would just be his clothing, armor and weapon that went with him.

The Jidai beckoned to him to follow them to a shuttle that barely had enough room for all four especially now that Thravang had joined them. He finally wedged himself into a cramped corner on top of a crate. He watched from his vantage as Master Iakan sat down in the cockpit and started the takeoff procedures. As soon as they were cleared, the shuttle lifted off and soared into the sky. Thravang watched the sky diminish in distance until the shuttle was able to enter hyperspace, then the atmosphere of the planet Aeten II abruptly became star streaked. At that very moment, he felt his heart twist. He would miss his people and home, but it was necessary. He was looking forward to the adventure he was sure he would have. He was more than young enough to relish that very notion. He, Thravang Isâhur Rath, leaving home for the unknown. He was sure he was going to have fun. He also was wise enough to know that it would not be all fun. However, he would still get to do something that his people hadn't done.

At that point, Callan joined him and informed him that it would be three weeks before they reached Tython since it was in the Deep Core and travel was difficult in that sector of the galaxy. The Jidai Knight showed him the galaxy map and traced the route for Thravang and it grew into a very stilted but still enjoyable discussion about the various planets on that route. Briandi joined the conversation as she handed him a book that Padawans were assigned to read, and it was a beginning treatise on the Jedi Code. She told him that she was going to help him read the book. So ended one phase of Thravang's life and a new phase began.

 

Chapter Text

 

23 Vidisija Tanechra Turinata 10 ATC


Thravang sat at a table next to one of the view windows that looked out onto space as the Thranta class corvette he had hitched a ride on approached Tython at sublight speed. In some ways he was going to miss the four years he had spent with Master Iakan and Knights Callan and Briandi. That time had been quite informative, to say the least. Rather enlightening on how the Jidai Order viewed the galaxy, their duties and their tenets. He didn't see issues with most of the Jidai teachings and tenets. Mostly. Naturally he had his own issues with the Code, but he wasn't about to discuss them with a Master. He let out a faintly dismissive snort at that notion. Master Iakan would have been more understanding after four years of knowing his “special project” student, but the others? Better zip his lips shut.

He returned his attention to the holobook in his hands where he continued his language lessons on Huttese. Fortunately he no longer needed lessons on Galactic Basic. He ignored the thick tension rising in the air in the room at his presence. He knew that everyone else was side eyeing him and talking about him in what they thought to be hushed tones. Not that it did them any good. He could hear them quite well, and he was wryly amused by that. Those silly humans often forgot that aliens didn't always have their species' limited hearing range. After four years, he had gotten used to being mistaken for a Sith Pureblood simply because they had no other comparisons and he had not seen a reason to disabuse them of that notion. Surely he would have gotten worse reactions, he would become more of an unknown. People didn't like unknowns.

There had been a few "duels" under the guise of spars in the weapon salle he often practiced his forms in, and the reactions from the losers were always predictable. He sighed heavily as he thought about those reactions as he murmured a tricky Huttese phrase as he read it aloud from his holobook. They always expected to be gloated over or worse. Instead, what had he done? Simply thanked them for the practice, and helped them up with a held out hand, then walked away. Why did they have to be so ... surprised? Every sûdas time! He was careful not to let his facial expressions betray his thoughts. Everyone expected a Jidai to be stoic. Never mind that he wasn't even a Knight yet. He would be so glad to disembark once he got close enough to be dropped off, he would have to be shuttled in.

Tython didn't have a proper spaceport. Security purposes. Some problems with the wildlife, he had been told when he had inquired about that. Pretty convenient excuse to fob off on people wanting to visit. Just then he heard his name called nervously and he glanced up from his datapad to see a naval officer standing in the doorway. The man wore a flight suit uniform, so he supposed it had to be the shuttle pilot. He stuffed his holobook into his haversack and swung that over his shoulder as he stood up. He simply nodded at the shuttle pilot with a calming smile and motioned for him to lead the way. In short order they were en route to the landing pad at a place called the Masters' Retreat.

The tall broad shouldered Tsis stepped off the shuttle ramp with a mostly silent sigh of relief. He had his haversack in his hand as he inclined his head at the pilot in a polite farewell accompanied by a smile that was just slightly too saccharine. He was happy to be finally off that corvette and its far too paranoid soldiers. Then he pivoted around smartly and started striding towards the large building a short distance away on the platform above the lake. He did pause a moment to inhale deeply of the air and liked what he scented. Fresh air! After one month spent on that miserable ship, he was glad of the fresh air and the gentle breeze that tickled his beard tentacles and his garnet hair that hung down his back. He hadn't bothered with the traditional Padawan hair braid, and Master Iakan had deemed it a battle not worth waging with his unusual student and it was not as if Thravang had favored some outrageous hairstyle. He used to have his hair braided, but he didn't have time to do it himself, nor did he have a servant to help with that particular task. So a more simple pulled back ponytail it was now.

His sure strides resumed as he glanced around as he climbed up the steep ramp leading away from the landing pad to the main platform surrounding the large building. The building was round, had three stories, and off to his right he could see another landing pad. The retreat seemed to be built back into the rock, and the platform was anchored with struts sunk into the rock beneath. The twin landing pads had a central support beam going down into the lake presumably to the floor. The ground level story was smaller and had columns supporting the much larger second level story. The third top story was much smaller and was mostly windows. Perhaps a view vantage to sit, gaze and mediate. The main color was in a soft brown, with dark brown accents. There was a large Jidai statue in the middle of the platform. He already had noticed a brown haired human male with pale skin in brown robes waiting for him at the top of the ramp but he did not quicken his steps. Thravang simply did not wish to seem too eager to complete his studies. The patient Jidai Knight bid him welcome to Tython with a comment about how everyone at the temple was looking forward to meeting him as soon as he had set foot on the main platform, then the Knight went to comment on his combat skills as an expert duelist before he introduced himself as Knight Derrin Weller.

Thravang gave him a sidelong glance (What? At what age do they teach Padawans combat? Do they expect their Padawans to stand around like docile herd animals waiting to be led to the butchering shed and be slaughtered for meat?) He mentally shook his head to clear the images he had dancing around in his mind. Of course he had been trained to fight from a young age. His homeworld was not pacified by a long shot, nor did his people wish to pacify their homeworld. To do so would be to leave things unbalanced. For peace to be appreciated, there must always be some element of danger. He demurred by saying that he had been training since he was young. After some more conversation with the Knight about getting assigned a new Master by the Council and being tested in ways that he couldn't imagine, Thravang followed him to a room just inside the building. Behind the Knight's back Thravang frowned. He thought he had been sent for more educational training, but clearly the other Jidai had different ideas. Well no matter, he would find ways to cope with the change in plans and succeed. He just had to. He stopped himself from snorting loudly just in time when Knight Weller told him that he would know himself by the time he finished his trials and departed Tython as a Jedi Knight. (I already know myself, thank you very much. What am I, a young stripling of ten? In case you hadn't noticed, I have twenty years now, and reckoned a man by human measures).

Their conversation was cut short by a sudden emergency signal beep from the Knight's holocom. Thravang looked on at the strange figure that flickered blue in the air above the holocom. Some alien clearly, but what species? He would have to consult his datapad that Master Iakan had given him. He listened as the Padawan shouted about the Flesh Raiders attacking the training grounds with blasters and to send help. He was very sorely tempted to pinch his nose with two fingers. Rather foolish to not have older Padawans combat trained. (Ha! What are they going to do if Tython gets invaded? Run screaming around like a kameja with its head cut off? And to think the Jidai call themselves the defenders of the Republic.) He opted for rubbing his right cheek tendril with his left hand to mask his inner thoughts. He inquired about what the Flesh Raiders and was informed that they were native to Tython and that they were hostile beyond belief and intelligent enough to use rudimentary technology. (Native, hmm? There was no record of such in the archives back home in the private family library. Master Iakan did say that the Jidai had departed Tython in the past and had just returned there some years ago.) In the next few moments, he found himself tasked by reporting to the training grounds to deal with the Flesh Raider invasion. At that point, he had his hands on his hips and feeling just a tad bit annoyed with the whole situation. Well, perhaps a bit more than just a tad. He settled for giving a curt short nod and managed to keep himself to a somewhat ... unruffled... walk on his way to locate and ride the speeder that the Knight spoke of. Ah, there it was on the other landing pad he had seen earlier. On the ride, he did pinch his nose with his fingers in annoyance and rolled his eyes. (Sûdas idiots! Can't even defend their own training grounds because their sûdas Padawans don't know how to fight. How can they be so stupid? Dujikri, I was barely more than a toddler when I picked up a stick and started playing warrior games.)

By the time his speeder landed, he had regained his composure and presented a veneer of calmness to the Jidai who had quickly waved him over. This Jidai had dark brown short hair, sideburns, and a scar on his left cheek, and a faint hint of stubble. The same boring old Jidai robes in shades of brown, as usual. What was wrong with blue and green? Those were colors that occurred naturally on Tython too. He quickly found out that the Jidai was Master Relnex and requested a full report before he set out on his new mission. Clearly, the invaders had arrived organized and ready. They even had some tactic planning since they were attempting to isolate groups of Padawans. He managed to refrain from muttering something under his breath as he learnt that there had been a group of Padawans out in the hills, not combat trained, and they had been ... lost. (Lost? If they're out in the hills, they should have had a holocom with them. Sam'zi! No one back home ever went out into the wilds without a means of contact and informing a Warden.) He snatched the beacon from the Master and raced off without even bothering to hear the Master's farewell. This was not the time to waste what could be precious moments on niceties. He had to find that group quickly. He pulled his warblade from its protective sheath and tossed the padding away with his right hand at a receptacle he assumed to be meant for trash collection. He wouldn't need it anymore. This was real fighting, not sparring.


*** Time has passed ***


Once he had killed a bunch of the oddly looking Flesh Raiders, he got a holocall from that Knight he had first met with. Unsurprisingly, Knight Weller had gotten himself shot in his left leg while rescuing some Padawans (Deserved him right for not believing the report from that Padawan that the Flesh Raiders were armed. Never underestimate an enemy when eyewitnesses inform you of such). He simply nodded at the report that another Padawan had found a cave that the Flesh Raiders had been using to infiltrate the training grounds through. Of course, he was to go and check the cave out and find a way to seal the tunnel. He ended the holocall to resume his search for the lost group of Padawans. The cave could wait until then. He crossed over an ancient stone bridge and glanced sideways at what seemed to be a vintage holoterminal set off at the side of the bridge in its own little nook. He would have to poke at it later; now was not the time to satisfy his curiosity.


*** Some hours later ***


Thravang made his progression into the hills until he came to one final upward slope climb. He crested the slope to discover the missing Padawans, but one was down on the ground, injured, and nearby laid a Flesh Raider corpse in the verdant grass. Oh good, this group was not so helpless after all. Two humans and one Zabrak. The human male was clad in a rusty orange with dark brown accents, the Zabrak male was garbed in a dark brown, and the human female was dressed in some sort of ugly yellow with some dark brown accents. As he strode up to them, he overheard the ongoing conversation between the Padawans. One glance told him that yes, the injured human needed to be taken to the Jidai Temple for treatment. He was just too banged up to continue on. (Continue on with what? Their training? It is too dangerous for them now. The sûdas idiots!) Just then the female human Padawan spotted him and turned to greet him with how lucky he was not to have been caught by the creatures.

"Lucky? You guys are the ones with training sabers," now he did pinch his nose and shook his head at them, "I'm fine, I've got a warblade to work with. They weren't able to stop me." He stood there with his hands on his hips as he studied them "You were lucky to have killed just one."

He listened as the male Zabrak told him that they had come seeking knowledge of the Code. He looked around and eyed them again as the human female continued the conversation (What knowledge is to be had out here? I see nothing but grass, trees and rock outcroppings. Right now that is not my concern, though. Girl, you better get used to fighting. We are in a time of war. There'll be no peace for a while.) He cut her short by remarking that the Masters had wanted them out of harm's way since they had no combat training. He listened to the argument that broke out between the Padawans. He pinched his nose and started tapping one booted foot in mounting annoyance. Finally he made a slashing motion in the air with his left hand as he ended the argument for them "Enough! You three are not warriors. I AM calling an evac shuttle for you three."

He pointed a clawed finger at the female human "You're walking down a dark path that you are not prepared for. I would advise you to listen to the Zabrak here. He has the right idea." He punched the button on the beacon that would summon the evac shuttle then handed it off to the Zabrak male "You're the sensible one here. Make sure to keep the beacon with you. Help will arrive shortly." As he turned, he gave the female Padawan a withering glance "Don't let your judgment become clouded. You are far too untested to remain unconsumed." Then he headed off to find that cave and the tunnel within. As he walked, he hit his face a few times in the face with his palm as he rolled his eyes. They were far from finishing that particular trial, whatever it was. There was a time and place for revenge, but it had to be carefully planned and executed with all consequences given due consideration, and it could not be done in the heat of anger and the moment. That girl did not understand that, and was far too young. He had observed that the Padawans present were more like older children and less like teenagers about to become adults.


*** Some searching later ***


There was just something that bothered him about the cave, but he was not certain what. Ah well, there was only one way to find out. As usual. He touched his left hand to his right shoulder and murmured a phrase under his breath, his gaze steady, “Kûts arsia shuriji zûta" before he calmly strode into the growing dimness of the cave as the bright blue sky faded behind his footsteps leaving a trail in the tunnel floor dust. Once again, his nostrils flared in the semi darkness as he scented the Flesh Raiders ahead of him. He ignored the smell of the russet stone dust rising from the cave floor, that was harmless, but the Flesh Raiders were not. At intervals there were some sort of light source, and he wondered at them. Where did the technology to power those small lights come from? No time to dwell on that; he had more pressing concerns. The scent of the Flesh Raiders came to him as just plain wrong - rotten flesh with flies swarming about, scarlet blood left too long to curdle black in the sun, and other things best left unnamed. He winced as one final malodorous scent assaulted his nostrils, there was definitely a downside to having a very sharp sense of smell compared to humans. He resolutely filtered the smells out so he could continue his exploration of the cave undisturbed by the smell of the filthy things. Once again he had to kill the Flesh Raiders that he came across in the tunnel. He slew all that he saw, sparing none, for he had to guard his own back and flanks, and desired no unsavory surprise in his backside. As his boots crunched in the stone dust that wafted in the air after his steps, he crested the final slope in the path to spot the same Jidai Padawan that had urgently sent that emergency holocom call to Knight Weller, and standing next to that Padawan was trouble. Trouble's body language practically screamed for all to see, and his intentions were also coloring the Force around him darkly. Thravang shook his head as he drew near enough to hear the human male's words to the injured... Bith? Padawan. He would have to consult his datapad later about species in the Jidai Order. So many things to read and not enough time to do so.

"Stop struggling, Padawan. Your life was over the moment you set foot here."

"You are Jedi. Why would you kill me?"

"Because the order must evolve -- and you are weak."

Thravang listened to the conversation and mentally rolled his eyes. (Sûdas moron! Of course he is no Jidai). He cut the conversation short by addressing the clearly fallen Jidai who had dark colored skin around his eyes.

"Whatever your problem is, ugly eye mask, I'm here to stop you, and step away from that Padawan, whoever you are, dark Jidai."

"Hmm.. You are... dangerous. You killed my soldiers."

(This Callef is also a sûdas idiot. Of course, I am dangerous. I've had combat training, after all. Did I not come armed with a warblade for all to see? Not one of those pitiful training sabers. Training sabers are for the little children to practice with.)

The injured Padawan murmured "He commands the Flesh Raiders attacking us."

To which the dark Jidai retorted "Not attacking -- cleansing. And we have only begun."

Thravang watched rather calmly as two Flesh Raiders emerged from the tunnel behind Callef. Two and no more. Well that was still all to the good, not too many to deal with at once. (Cleansing? Dujikri! Sure, the Order had problems, but they were simply far too complex to just flush down the refresher commode like this sûdas idiot thought.) He mentally shook his head when the fallen Jidai raised his blue lightsaber to him with the two Flesh Raiders flanking Callef. Very well so be it. Combat it was to be, and he would fight honorably. He grimly dispatched the trio of enemies in short order - they had underestimated his combat abilities. Oh, make no mistake, he enjoyed the combat aspect. He simply didn't enjoy the taking of life and the spilling of blood, whatever color it may be. One never knew with aliens. He cleaned his warblade and was about to check on the injured Padawan when someone raced up the path to them.

"That was amazing, I thought we were dead!" the injured Padawan exclaimed.

"You two alright? What happened here?" the new arrival asked in a rush.

This new person had the garb of a Jidai Knight, but Thravang instantly sensed that this was no mere Knight. At the inane question of what had happened, Thravang very nearly did bury his face in his hand (Sam’zi! The bodies are there for all to see, with their blood seeping into the stone dust and encrusting slowly into dark pools. How can he not see that?) Rather than reveal his ... less than ideal respect for this Jidai, Thravang let the other Padawan do the speaking.

"This Jedi attacked us, Master Orgus. He was sick... confused"

"Thank the Force that you're both safe. This man's no Jedi -- at least, not one of us."

Ah, so this new ajiusona was a Master. Oh just how lovely. At least this Master did acknowledge that his fallen adversary was not a Jidai. Thravang took the time to debrief the Master on the situation that had arisen in the training grounds and what details he knew by remarking "He organized the attack on the training grounds. Called the Flesh Raiders his soldiers."

"I warned the Council these natives aren't mindless beasts. This is proof," Master Orgus answered. Then he turned to Thravang and studied him "You held off all these attackers by yourself with only a sword. Impressive."

Thravang merely demurred "I just followed my instincts. That is all."

A few moments later, the Master collapsed the wall opening in which the Flesh Raiders had entered the cave through in a rush of air as rocks tumbled to the floor amid a huge billowing of cave dust as pebbles sprayed through the air everywhere.

After arranging safe transport for the injured Padawan to a med center, Master Orgus turned to Thravang and told him that he was cleared to travel alone, and to report to the Jidai Council at the Temple. Despite what Master Iakan had said four years ago, the Council had not laid eyes on Thravang. The Council had deemed it not necessary to meet with him once he had left Aeten II with Master Iakan. They had taken Master Iakan's word for Thravang, and deemed that good enough.


 

Chapter Text

 

24 Nekircaja Tanechra Turinata 10 ATC

 

He finally spied the large building as he slowly came down the twisting beaten earth path from the gap in the low pass between towering slate grey cliffs. It certainly was large enough to be the Jidai Temple, and there could be no mistaking it for anything but. There were groups of older Padawans outside practicing against training dummies with their training sabers under the watchful eyes of their Jidai Knight instructors. His haversack hung over his right shoulder down his back, and his warblade had clearly seen some action during his travel through the pass from the Gnarls to the grounds of the Jidai Temple. The training grounds in the Gnarls might be now free of the Flesh Raiders, but the pass hadn't been. There had been Flesh Raider ambushers lurking in the deep shadows cast by the cliffs in the pass waiting for unwitting victims. Needless to say, they had been dealt with. He paused to kneel by a meandering swift brook and quickly washed his warblade clean of the encrusted dark crimson blood before he wiped it dry on the tall green grasses then sheathed it in the scabbard of tough black hide engraved with ancient Tsis symbols hanging from his waist. Then he looked around him as he sploshed his way across the little noisy brook and verdant grasses with scant regard for his boots until he struck the main path leading up to the Jidai Temple. It had taken him a day to reach the Jidai Temple simply because there had been so many fascinating half ruined statues and remnant walls of ruins to poke around in as he went through the pass. Surely they would not mind that he took a bit of time to satisfy his curiosity. After all, it was not as if that Master had told him to report right away and he had not lingered in the Gnarls any longer than necessary. So he hadn't disobeyed the summons, as far as he was concerned, since he was here now at the Jidai Temple.

As he climbed the stairs to the main entry, he could feel eyes lingering on him. Here he was, a stranger in a strange land, and considered to be a representative of the Jidai's ancient enemies. Never mind that he wasn't actually Sith. He looked like a Sith Pureblood, and for a great many people, that was enough to judge him by. He merely ignored the stares since there were no outright malice in what he sensed through the Force. The best thing he could do was simply to carry on with his normal business. The more they got to observe him, the more they would cease to see him as “Sith”. He mentally rolled his eyes as he passed through the main entry. He paused just before he was about to round a curve in the passageway. His holocom was chiming. He pulled it out of his belt pouch and stared at it for a heartbeat (How odd. There's no reason for anyone to call me... is there?) before he hit the answer button with a clawed finger. A figure flickered to life bathed in blue, and he was genuinely surprised to see who it was. Grandmaster Satele Shan. Oh my. What had he done to merit such a call?

"Padawan -- I'm Satele Shan, leader of the Jedi Council. I'd like to speak privately with you before we meet with the others. Come to my mediation room in the temple. We'll talk there."

All he could do was acquiesce to her request with a nod, and the call ended just like that. Why did she wish to see him privately? Surely not for an illicit romp. At the very notion of doing such a thing, he started chuckling quietly under his breath. Very amusing, indeed. He politely inquired about directions from one of the Padawans and was promptly given precise directions.

With a gracious nod of thanks, he followed the directions to her meditation room down two flights of stairs in a passageway and entered after a pause and knock on the door to see the Grandmaster in a classical Jidai meditating pose. (Did she spend every spare moment in that pose? It had only been a short while since she had called me to this room. I certainly hope not. Either she has too much time to kill meditating, or there are.... issues that she does not confide to anyone else.) As she rose to greet him, he made sure his face was utterly devoid of the amusement he had been feeling earlier. He had no wish to tell her why he had been chuckling.

He quietly took that time to study her. He had the sense that she was older than she looked in years. Her hair was still a dark brown done up in a few braided tails hanging down from her head with silver ornaments on the braids. Two were in front of her ears, the rest of her hanging braids were in the back. She also wore an interesting set of armor. She did not seem to mind that she showed skin in that armour of hers, although he did note that it had to be practical for her since all that synleather was skintight to permit maximum movement in combat (Not entirely modest, is she?). He also noted that she had a dualsaber hanging down her left leg clipped at her belt. Perhaps as Grandmaster of the Order, she was entitled to dress differently from the rest of the Council. Until now, he hadn't seen much in the way of variations on Jidai robes and armour. Perhaps it was also a secret way of testing young Padawans to see how disciplined they were. He dismissed it as being mostly irrelevant since it didn't affect him.

As he stood at casual parade rest in front of her, she spoke "Welcome, Padawan. The temple is already buzzing with accounts of your heroism in the training grounds. Master Orgus told me you battled Flesh Raiders -- and a Force user armed with a lightsaber."

(There are Force users everywhere here. Nothing unique about that. What is there to be surprised about? Dujikri!)

She reached out a hand to him "That must have been a disturbing confrontation. Are you alright?" He firmly kept his face blank and his eyes centered squarely on her face.

He managed to keep from snorting as he replied "Don't worry about me. I'll be fine," as he made a hand gesture as he pointed a finger at her.

She frowned at him "I admire your composure, but have you truly searched your feelings about this? Taking a life affects the Living Force -- and the one who does the killing. This is why Jedi enter battles calmly, with reason. Emotions like fear and anger lead to the dark side."

(By the black blood of Adas! This is starting to feel like a lecture. I only did what I had to do. Nothing more, nothing less. Is she lecturing me because their Padawans are that weak and become overwrought if they had to kill someone to defend someone else? Or is she lecturing me because all she sees is a Sith Pureblood? Never mind that I am not one.)

He simply stared at her levelly "I can control my feelings, no matter what I am facing." Tsis Force training involved being able to handle emotions in a more rational manner, instead of entirely repressing emotions. He had not been able to complete that training before his trip to Aeten II, however. Training with the Jidai for four years had enabled him to feel more calm during combat, but he did not understand why emotions were so heavily frowned on. Bottling up emotions did not lead to a healthy psyche. Even a village idiot understood that.

Apparently the Grandmaster was not satisfied with his answer as she told him "As the Jedi Code teaches us, 'There is no emotion, there is peace.' Remember those words when times are darkest."

(What peace? There is no peace if all emotion is suppressed to the point that you are unable to handle them properly. I wager that is one reason why many Jidai have fallen and swore allegiance to the Sith Order. They are not balanced within themselves.)

Of course, he did not speak aloud his thoughts. Now was not the time to get into a quarrel with the Grandmaster of the Jidai Order. Doing so would be surely the quickest way to get booted out of the Order, he warranted.

She continued in that soft deep firm voice of hers "And take this. The Code is a source of strength, but some backup never hurts. I'll see you soon in the Council chambers." She smiled at him as she handed him a piece of blue quartz shaped in the form of a cube that was large enough to be held. On the cube sides the Jidai Code was engraved in white flowing script letters. He placed the cube in one of his belt pouches with a grave nod of thanks. He had the sense that this was not a gift given freely to just any Padawan.

(I never would use a mantra as a source of strength. Strength must be drawn from and cultivated within. Are the Jidai truly that weak? Dujikri!)

She sank back onto the floor in a kneeling position, and he took it as a dismissal. He turned and departed her mediation room.

He went looking for the mess hall. Surely there had to be one where Jidai ate their meals while on the Temple grounds. Once again, he had to ask a Padawan for directions. As expected, the fare was rather basic. Bread, cheese, fruit, and some sort of root soup with vegetables. He eyed the food dubiously (Sûdas! They call this filling and nutritious? By Tsis standards, this definitely isn't. There isn't even any meat.) After a few minutes of reluctantly prodding the floating vegetables in his soup with the spoon, he resigned himself to the inevitable, and slowly ate his meal. While in the mess hall, a beige skinned male Zabrak Jidai Master intercepted him and escorted him up to a dormitory wing reserved for male Padawans, and he was shown to a large room that had an empty bed, and there was five other beds already occupied. Thravang claimed the empty bed by virtue of settling his rucksack on top of the mattress, and left for the library. He had found the library to be rather interesting with databanks everywhere he looked, and small platforms that displayed floating holocrons. There were tables with chairs surrounding them, but he wasn't interested in sitting at one of them. He downloaded some books he found to be interesting onto his datapad and headed back to the dormitory room. He stripped and settled himself in bed after he stowed away his things in the chest at the end of the bed. He didn't need to report for combat lessons yet, but he did want to get some reading in before he had to sleep.

Night fell, and the other Padawans assigned to the dorm room went to bed as well. One of the other Padawans had been a golden haired Mirialan that favored long flowing locks, and he had dark green skin with his face done up in a black diamond and stripe tattoo pattern. His eyes also matched the exact shade of his hair. He had paused by Thravang's bed and given the "Sith Pureblood" a long appraising look before he gave a nod and a smile before heading for his own. Thravang groaned as he turned and tossed in his bed and could not stop the silent but deadly smell of his indigestion from wafting all over the room. By dawn, there was quite a lovely smell of rotten eggs lingering in the room. The other Padawans had been quick to flee the room as soon as they had awakened.

 

*** The following day ***

 

25 Lorija Issitahra Turinata 10 ATC

 

He grumpily knuckled his eyes as he sat at a table by himself as he sourly surveyed his breakfast. More of the same from yesterday's evening meal. Did the menu ever change? Once again he peevishly consumed the meal as he considered his options. Clearly, the Jidai thought he could consume a human diet. Problem was, such a diet did not suit his biology. So who did he speak to about his dietary requirements? He certainly did not have time to do so now, he had to make himself presentable for the Jidai Council meeting. He did snag for himself a cup of caf and left to take a hot shower in the communal refresher that he shared with the other Padawans. He left the refresher sorely in need of a good airing out once he was finished using that facility.

At the appointed time, he climbed the curving stairway to the second floor of the Jidai Temple and turned to face the great doors that led to the Council meeting chamber as soon as his booted feet hit the landing. He strode up to the doors, paused, then pushed them open with one four fingered hand. He took a deep breath to center himself then entered the short hallway. Statues of stylized Jidai lined the hallway, and there was a border of red stone inlaid with a golden design lining the central white stone tiles of the hallway floor. He approached the main chamber, and he spotted several people sitting in those blue padded chairs that flanked a large silvered table with a golden brown trim that had a large holoterminal in the middle. He silently counted the number of chairs; there were only seven. Only seven? There should have been at least three more chairs according to what Master Iakan had told him, and three of those seven chairs were unoccupied. He spotted the Master that had spoken to him in that cave sitting in one (So he is on the Council? Hmm, interesting). The other person there actually sitting was maybe a Togruta, he thought. He slowed to a stop in front of the table and listened to the conversation. Apparently this Callef he had killed had never received any form of Jidai training. The Togruta had searched the Temple archives for records, and there had been none to be found. He noted that there was a human woman standing next to the sitting Togruta Master. Her Padawan, perhaps.

"Then the Sith have found us. Shouldn't we get ready for them?"

Apparently the Jidai Council were much more informal than the Royal Council meetings back home. Granted, speakers had the permission to speak freely there, but there was still a set of protocol to be followed.

"Calm yourself, Padawan. We can't be certain of anything, yet."

"But we've all sensed a growing darkness -- perhaps it's finally revealed itself."

(What growing darkness? There's darkness all over Tython.) Then he mentally shook his head once more (Of course, I've been here less than what they call a week in that Galactic Time Standard calendar of theirs. Hardly enough time to know if something's off-kilter).

To head off what he sensed to be a rather heated discussion brewing, Thravang gave his two credits' worth "The enemy I faced wanted to destroy the Jidai Order. Can't get much darker than that," as he gestured with one hand at the Council.

The female Padawan actually shot him a smile as she remarked "Well, that brightened up the room...." Thravang had to smother a smile at that. He decided he liked her sense of humor. He had to restrain the urge to tap his foot as he listened to the cave tunnel Master introducing him to the rest of the Council (Must be this Master Orgus that the Grandmaster mentioned). Patience never had been one of his best fortes. To keep his mind busy, he mentally began reviewing his Huttese lessons. He found out that the "extremely vocal" Padawan was named Kira, and he also learned the name of her Togruta Master (Extremely vocal? Kira must not be one to keep her mouth shut then. I don't think they like their Padawans too talkative. Or perhaps she is too questioning?) He simply gave each Master a polite inclination of his head as they were introduced to him. Just then the Grandmaster arrived to the meeting with a comment about the temple's safety being unexpectedly threatened and how the Flesh Raiders had been primitive until today (Sûdas! Never discount a threat just because they're not technologically adept. They have the numbers, and there's only so many of you Jidai. Ajiusona!) He dearly wished he could scold her for being late to the meeting; he had noticed her absence when he arrived. His father never approved of tardiness to his own Council meetings. Instead, he frowned as he addressed the Grandmaster "I think you've been misinformed."

"We clearly underestimated the natives. The man leading the Flesh Raiders probably wasn't acting alone."

"Much of Tython remains unexplored, and we have few resources to spare."

Thravang had felt a thrill race through his body at hearing that Tython had remained largely unexplored. Terrific, maybe when he got to take a vacation or had downtime granted to him, he could return to Tython and just go exploring. Only the Force knew what he could discover or stumble across.

" I'll handle it -- with the help of my new Padawan."

"Orgus, you haven't taken a Padawan since Coruscant."

"The Force is strong in him. Stronger than I've seen in decades."

"I can think of no finer Master to complete this Padawan's training."

Thravang felt flattered at that, but he was careful not to preen. Of course, it made sense for him to be that strong in the Force. All Tsis possessed strength in the Force since the Force was so integral to the species. It was just a matter of fact for Thravang. Grandmaster Satele Shan agreed with Master Orgus Din on the choice of his new Padawan with a smile on her face and approval in her voice. Just like that, Thravang found himself with an official Master to complete his trials with. A Master from the Jidai Council, no less. He was undecided if he should be concerned or flattered about having such a prestigious Master.

"It will be a privilege, and I'll complete my final trials once we've dealt with the Flesh Raiders." Thravang said after a moment of silence when the Council looked at him for his reaction.

"Don't get too excited. You're in for some hard work. You'll find supplies in my chambers downstairs. Go equip yourself. I'll meet you there."

He gave a half bow with his left hand on his right shoulder and departed the Jidai Council chambers. He set out to find his new Master's chambers and after wandering through the Temple, he finally located the suite of rooms that his Master kept. He had found what passed for a cantina in the Temple. Doubtless the drinks they served were heavily watered down. He had also found several classrooms and a room where some Jidai were trying to channel the light side into a Sith held in stasis. He frowned as he recalled that, surely that was not the best way to try to turn a Sith to the light side. He shook his head over that as he looked around in the main room. There was a grey metallic table with a bunch of chairs that looked slightly comfortable to sit in since they had open backs and the seats had red pads. There were the requisite stylized Jidai statues present as well. There were some databanks most likely linked to the Temple archives embedded into a wall. Then he spotted a storage locker, so he went to rummage in that one.

He was still looking through the supplies when he sensed the arrival of his Master and he hid a broad smile as Master Orgus Din complained about the Council meetings taking so long that he would die of old age before his colleagues ran out of words. Thravang turned and gave him a look then said that he would rather do something about problems than discuss them. Master Din nodded then replied that sometimes talking was necessary to solve some problems, then told him that the situation had come at him fast and that he was braving dangers that not many Jidai faced (Oh, is that so? Is that why so many Jidai fell defending the old Temple on Coruscant? Because they couldn't handle danger and didn't know how to fight? Sûdas idiots! As the Sith undoubtedly would say, they were weak because they didn't have the skills and abilities.)

Master Din then said he would get to ask a question, so Thravang thought about what he would ask, and decided to ask why he had been chosen as Padawan when Master Orgus Din haven't had one in years. He got a rather interesting answer about learning to trust his instincts as a Jidai. So the moment they had met in that cave, the Master had known that Thravang was to become his Padawan but did not know why or for what purpose, only that the Force had informed him so.

Thravang answered that he would be looking forward to learn from Master Din, and the Master replied that he expected Thravang to teach him some things in turn, and that it was time to get to work. He learned about the village of Twi'lek pilgrims, and that it was an illegal settlement. The Republic had asked the Jidai to deny them aid, which he promptly said that it was wrong of the Republic to tell the Jidai what to do. Master Din said that the Jidai had a duty to serve the Republic.

Thravang still disagreed with that (What will they do if the Republic asks them to do something that goes against their teachings? Hypocrites!) but did not press the issue. Now was not the time to get into a long drawn out argument with his new Master. Especially one who also had a seat on the Council.

Master Orgus Din had said that their village was in the mountains, so he stopped in the library to find and locate a map of the explored regions of Tython. He downloaded that to his datapad for further reference, and sauntered down the stairs and out of the Temple. One of the other Padawans gave him a dark look and nearly sneered "On your way off Tython, are you?" Clearly she had mistaken him for Sith again, and had erroneously assumed that he had been dismissed from the Order since he had his equipment with him.

Thravang simply raised an arched eye ridge at her "You assume too much, Padawan. No, I'm headed out on a mission that Master Orgus Din assigned me as his new Padawan." Let the ajiusona chew on that. He went down to the main path and looked for the path that would take him into the mountains somewhat easterly of the Jidai Temple grounds.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

26 Kitija Issitahra Turinata 10 ATC

 

After a day spent striding the dusty path that wound its way through the foothills into the mountains, he came to a valley that sat nestled deeply with jagged mountain peaks straddling all sides and there were only two paths that led in and out of the village. The village had thick walls erected as protection, and Twi'leks of varying colors and patterns bustled around on their daily errands and tasks.

Earlier in the day during his trek, he had passed over a bridge sitting over a brook that flowed into a large pond, and he had glanced off to the side. There in the rippling water, he had spotted two Jidai Knights standing waist deep swinging their lightsabers, green and blue, at each other. He was rather dubious about the effectiveness of that particular training tactic. He never would fight in water if he could help it. His species had a deep natural aversion to water. He would rather throw his saber at his opponent and force leap to the shore where he would have far more freedom and not get boggled down.

He also had to “strategically retreat” from a startled shaggy haired uxibeast cow who had charged him. She had viewed him as a threat to her calf for some reason only the cow had determined. He had no sûdas idea why. One moment he had just been marching along on the path that wound through a meadow a supposedly safe distance away from a herd of uxibeasts and the next moment he had been running for safety and had force leapt his way into a high tree that stood lone sentinel at one edge of the meadow. Sure he could have drawn his ancient Tsis warblade and stood his ground, but why? There was not much point in slaying her and he had not been in the mood for fresh meat. He would have rather hunted a bull instead had he the choice. He climbed down only after the cow gave up at trying to reach him as she snorted and pawed at the ground next to the tree in frustration and had skirted the meadow until he was considerably well away.

He walked through the village, self conscious of all the eyes on him. He sensed that he was spared a more warm welcome by the virtue of his Jidai apparel. He was looking around while he heard a voice call out to him “Come over here, Jedi, and spare a moment for a humble servant of the Matriarch. I promise, your other dealings will wait.”

He directed a glance in the direction of her voice and saw a green skinned Twi'lek woman standing next to a stack of boxes with rounded lids in front of the Matriarch's abode. She had darker green striping on her lekku and her eyes were a shade of soft bluish purple, and her cheeks were reddened, and so were her lips. The older woman, for she had some wrinkles on her face, wore a dark grey overtunic, a pale gray shirt, medium gray breeches, dark grey boots and a black belt.

She beckoned him over with a gesture of her hand “My name is Vederiat Ayon. I minister to the bodies and spirits of the villagers... and I have a request.” Oh, so she had a request for him, did she? Very well, he would find out what it was since he was representing the Jidai in the village. He approached her at a sedate pace, and politely inclined his head at her to indicate his attention.

“I speak of the Flesh Raiders. Of late, we've seen them growing stronger – and I know why.”

Now she had his total undivided attention.

“The Flesh Raiders have been experimenting – concocting an elixir that makes them ravenous. The ones who drink it go mad. Their lips froth, and they pounce like starving animals. It's black medicine – primitive and evil.”

Thravang ran his fingers across his heavily tentacled beard to show that he was thinking. After a moment of due consideration, he inquired with a frown on his brow “How could Flesh Raiders learn to do something like that?” It smacked of the dark side of the Force to him. This Callef, he remembered, had been trained, but not as a Jidai. He did not know who had trained Callef yet.

The woman shook her head and answered “I have no idea. Such wickedness is beyond our comprehension.”

On that score, he had to agree with her privately. He personally had no experience with such wickedness, but the legends among the Tsis spoke of such many tales from the ancient days of their ancestors on Korriban. Regardless, this was ill tidings, indeed, and surely the Jidai would be next, if the Flesh Raiders managed to eliminate the settlers altogether. (The sûdas fools! The Jidai can be such sûdas idiots. They keep missing the bigger picture far too often).

She continued as she placed her hands on her hips with her arms akimbo “We lack the numbers to attack the Flesh Raiders directly, and not even the Jedi could wipe the monsters from this world. However, with our warriors' help, the Jedi could reach the Flesh Raider caves and destroy their vats of elixir.” He had to agree with her assessment that not even the Jidai could exterminate the Flesh Raiders from Tython. For one thing, it went against their teachings, and secondly, it would do the Jidai good to have something to keep them on their toes and stay vigilant. It also would provide a good combat trial for their Padawans as well if they were so inclined. Look at him, for instance. Newly arrived, he was, and already in the thick of fighting the Flesh Raiders. Besides, who knew how many Flesh Raiders there truly were? Master Satele had said in the Council meeting yesterday that the Order hadn't had the resources to explore Tython.

There was durasteel in his voice as he responded to her entreating look “Then count me in.” He had no qualms about agreeing to her request that he enter the caves and destroy the elixir. (The poor villagers. They must be so desperate for help that they don't even cavil at seeing a Tsis who reminds them too much of a Sith Pureblood. Surely they know what a Sith Pureblood looks like, and they aren't even fazed much by my presence. The sûdas Jidai were wrong to deny them aid.)

“Thank you for this. Odumis Mer knows where the vats are hidden. He is our guard captain. Talk to him to learn the Raiders' secrets.”

“Thank you, Vederiat,” he replied politely with an incline of his head. “I shall certainly do so.”

He went off to meet the Matriarch and discussed the village's current plight with her and her advisers.

 

“Sabotage would thin the Flesh Raider numbers and eliminate their technological advantage.”

“If you brought that technology here, we could defend ourselves with those weapons.”

“This village is vulnerable to attack. You need better defenses.”

“This debate is pointless unless you can get inside that cave. You'll need one of the leaders' access keys.”

“Find the Flesh Raider technology and do what you think is best. Good luck, Master Jedi.”

 

He departed the meeting with the Matriarch and her advisers and several of the other villagers hailed him with concerns of their own. He stopped to hear them out and promised the villagers that he would look into their concerns for them. Then he asked after the Guard Captain, and was pointed in the man's direction. He picked his way through the village to the Twi'lek.

The man was blue skinned, and had pale gray markings on his lekku, and his eyes were also a pale blue. Like most of the Twi'leks, he was dressed in shades of grey. The man held his hands out in a gesture “Jedi. I know what you've been doing. Vederiat sent you to speak with me. She told you about the Flesh Raider elixir, didn't she? How it makes the Flesh Raiders strong?”

Thravang merely raised an eyeridge at him and remained silent as the young Padawan waited for the fool to keep blowing hot air out of his mouth. He had the sense that the Guard Captain and the priestess did not see eye to eye on this. The man's next words confirmed his suspicions.

“Vederiat's been looking for a way to destroy the elixir – but she's making a terrible mistake. We shouldn't destroy the elixir. We need it! And I'll pay you well if you bring it to me.”

Clearly, the fool did not care about what the elixir would do to the village guards under his command, only the results. Very short sighted, indeed (Sam'zi! Did he not hear how it made them froth at the lips? Did he not hear how it created a foul appetite? Did he not realize that the elixir would only corrupt the ones under his command? The sûdas fool. At least it's easy to refuse.)

Since there clearly were other Twi'leks listening in and looking at them, Thravang queried in quite the calm tone, completely at odds with his inner thoughts, “What exactly are your intentions?” He wished to make it clear to the other villagers what their Guard Captain intended to do with the elixir.

“The elixir will make our guardsmen strong. Yes, it will change them, but it will work. We can defend our village and destroy our foes,” Odumis told him with determination in his voice. “Imagine – if the elixir can make a Flesh Raider powerful, what would it do for a Pilgrim warrior? Bring it to me, and you will be rewarded. Praised!”

Thravang promptly shook his head “You should know that it is useless to bribe a Jidai, Odumis. Did you not hear what Vederiat had to say about the effects of that elixir on the Flesh Raiders?” He perfectly well knew that the man knew. His voice held the note of finality to it “No, I will not help you feed the elixir to the Pilgrims.”

“Fine. Obey the orders of an old woman and destroy the elixir... but Pilgrim blood is on your hands,” the Twi'lek guard captain bitterly said, “The elixir is in the caves beyond our village. I doubt Jedi can even come close to the vats.”

(Sûdas idiot! Better that than a village full of corrupted guards lost to darkness. Corruption by the dark side is often paved with well meant intentions without failing to consider the consequences.)

“The corruption of the Pilgrims most assuredly will NOT be on my hands,” Thravang said harshly. “That, I will not permit.”

 

*** Some time later ***

 

He had found the caves that the Pilgrims had spoken of. They most certainly did smell dank and foul. Clearly, the Flesh Raiders had no hygiene habits to speak of either, so he had to watch where he stepped on the cold dusty stone floor of the tunnel he now traversed. He came across little vats of a black liquid that bubbled on the surface, and glowed red to his vision. They definitely reeked of the dark side to him. The smell stank in his nostrils as they flared from the unwelcome scent. He carefully knocked them over with the toe of his boot and watched dispassionately as they rolled around on the floor as they spilled their oh so precious contents. The liquid turned a dark shade of purple and smoked black before they faded from sight as they seeped into the stone. That disturbed him, and he shuddered with the thought of how it would have corrupted the Pilgrim warriors. That sûdas fool of aGuard Captain.

Wrinkling his nose inelegantly, he proceeded to the rear of the cave as far as the tunnel went and knocked over every vat he came across to ensure that there were no more elixir to be found anywhere. In his explorations of the cave, he found the weapons that the Matriarch's advisers had spoken of after killing the Flesh Raider Warmaster that had foolishly challenged him to a duel. As he inspected the weapons and technology in the cache, he was surprised to be hailed by the droid he had assumed to be little more than scrap.

 

“T7 = glad to see Jedi! // T7 = captured by Flesh Raiders + needs rescuing”

“Don't worry, little guy. I'll get you out of there.”

“Jedi = T7's hero. T7 = Jedi reconnaissance droid // Mission parameters = scout wilderness + identify hazards. T7's restraining bolt = faulty + malfunctioning // T7's sensors = unable to detect Flesh Raider ambush.”

 

*** Some more time passed ***

 

Thravang had entered the village once more. He had been successful on the missions he had set out to complete. He turned his attention to a pressing need. He found Vederiat and she addressed him with “You look well, Jedi. I'm glad the Flesh Raiders didn't hurt you. Did you destroy the elixir?”

He gave a grave nod of his head with a somber expression on his face “Odumis tried to bribe me to leave the elixir intact. But yes – I destroyed it.” He felt that she had to know what the village's Guard Captain had attempted. Did she not tend to their spiritual needs?

She sighed with a sad expression on her face “Odumis wanted the elixir for himself, I suppose? You needn't tell me – I can guess. His encounter with the Flesh Raiders addled his mind. I will attend to him. In the meantime, thank you.” She then gave him a bow of respect with her hands clasped in front.

He returned the bow in a manner befitting one of his people then entered the Matriarch's rather humble abode to deliver the weapons to her daughter and walked straight into an argument with his new Master Orgus Din, also present.

 

“I'm sorry, Saylew. We all share your loss.”

“For every one of us the Flesh Raiders butcher, we should kill ten! No, a hundred!”

“Will that restore your loved one to life?”

“Don't lecture me, Jedi! My wife is dead! Our people, slaughtered! Where were you then?”

 

Thravang blinked and tried to divert the angry ranting Twi'lek by saying “I took all the Flesh Raiders' weapons, so you can defend yourselves.”

“Finally, one of you who understands,” the man muttered angrily and bitterly “Give me those weapons. We'll hunt down the Flesh Raiders. We'll have retribution.”

Thravang shook his head as he swept his hand to one side in a gesture of denial “Your leader should decide how to use those weapons. Not you.”

Ranna, the Matriarch's daughter, agreed with him “Go and mourn your wife, Saylew. I'll organize a militia to protect our village.”

 

Once the man had left, and the two Jidai were left in peace, Master Orgus Din turned to Thravang with a serious expression on his face, and Thravang sensed a lecture coming on. He did his best to muster a suitable facial expression for whatever the lecture might be.

“People wonder why Jedi are forbidden to marry or have families. They don't see how attachments always lead to suffering.” Now the Jidai Master stood in front of Thravang at parade rest “Passionate emotions can destroy a person – and Jedi destroyed by passion become something terrible.”

Thravang was saved from having to say anything by T7 piping up at just that moment “T7 = salutes Master Orgus // T7 reconnaissance report = ready for delivery.”

Thravang mumbled “Teeseven was captured by the Flesh Raiders. You'll want to see the holorecording he made.”

At that, Master Orgus Din promptly excused him so the Master could attend to the droid. Thravang inclined his head and hastily stepped away before he said something that surely would get him into trouble and earn him a very pointed lecture.

 

(Dujikri! They seriously believe that tripe about attachments always leading to suffering? By the black blood of Adas, did his parents create him without passion?) Thravang pinched the short bridge of his nose with two clawed fingers as he quoted to himself mentally “The risk of love is loss, and the price of loss is grief. But the pain of grief is only a shadow when compared with the pain of never risking and knowing love. Love is not the same as passion. It must be as a comforting light as much as it is a searing flame.” Those had been the words of his father to him, when they had discussed love and passion a while before he had left his homeworld on that fateful trip. (By the red sands of Korriban, those sûdas Jidai do not know the difference between love and passion.) He urgently resisted the temptation to bang his head against the sturdy wall of plastisteel. (How can they have strength if they have never been loved by someone? How can they have courage if they have never loved someone? How can they forgive others if they do not love others?)

 

 

Chapter Text

Scouts report that the Flesh Raider forces are gathering in strength.”

They already control the mountains around us, and now they're invading the ruins of Kaleth.”

My men spotted them at the remains of an ancient shrine – close to your Jedi Temple.”

Kaleth was a great city of Force users. Its ruins hold powers we still don't understand.”

The Flesh Raiders are looking for something there.”

We can't let them find it. Drive back those Flesh Raiders as soon as possible. I have to take this droid back to the Council.”

Do whatever it takes to push the Flesh Raiders out of Kaleth. I'll send you reinforcements as soon as possible.”

I'll hold the line until reinforcements arrive, Master.”


That had been the day before at the village of Twi'lek Pilgrims that they called Kalikori after he had delivered the droid Teeseven to Master Orgus Din.


27 Katmitaja Issitahra Turinata 10 ATC

 

Once again, he had spent the day traveling back to the Jidai Temple from Kalikori Village. This time, he had avoided the meadow where one uxibeast had charged him to chase him away from the herd grazing on the perimeter at the far end. Since he had been forced to go off the path and make a wide detour, he had nearly gotten lost. He had found his way back to the trail using the compass in his pack and his memories of where the river had laid in its bed. He had heaved a sigh of relief when he had spotted the bridge in the near distance as he emerged from a copse of tall trees with broad leaves and thick branches. He wouldn't have to deal with the embarrassment of having to call for an shuttle to come rescue him. He carried with him a safety beacon just in case he ran into an emergency and needed to be evacuated. He was not going to be like those foolish Padawans in the Gnarls. He shook his head at the memories of rescuing them. The sûdas idiots.

The Jidai Temple loomed in the distance and grew larger as he drew near it as he trudged down the dirt path leading away from the quite solid plasticoncrete bridge. He strode into the Temple and made his way up the ramp to the library to dig up what current information they had on Kaleth. Kaleth was ancient history to the Je'daii Order, but that was well over twenty thousand years ago, and he was wondering what the Jidai knew, or speculated about Kaleth.

He had just finished downloading what information they had to his datapad when he felt a hand touching his arm. Not his shoulder because he was just way too tall. He practically towered over everyone present at the Jidai Temple. Nostrils flaring in surprise, he turned around to see who it was. He knew it wasn't his new Master. Orgus Din did not seem the sort to touch people, and it was not his scent either.

He found himself gazing down at that green skinned Mirialan with long flowing golden locks he remembered from that night in the dorm room he had shared with seven other Padawans.

Seeing that he now had the Sith Pureblood's attention squarely on him as Thravang still clutched his datapad in one hand, Felahiran gave a simple nod of his head “Greetings. I am Felahiran Torenil. I bring you a message from Master Yoril Ritusan. He is in charge of the dormitories for the male Padawans. You are to see him, please, as soon as possible.” There was a short pause as Felahiran studied Thravang's facial features before he decided to ask a more prying question “Were you Sith?”

Thravang immediately gave a short shake of his head “If you are referring to the Sith Order, then no.” His smile was friendly, but yet also tentative. It annoyed him to no end how people never made a distinction between the species native to Korriban and the Sith Order.

“If you were not Sith, then …” Felahiran paused to think of how to word the rest of his question, “yet you look Sith Pureblood?” The future Consular finally ventured after scrutinizing him more closely. He had noted how deep a red the Padawan's skin was – so dark as to be nearly black. His eyes had dropped to the hand holding the datapad, and had noted the four digits and the black claw at the end of each finger. He had then raised his golden yellow eyes to Thravang's face, and observed how heavily “bearded” Thravang was compared to the Sith Pureblood holograms he recalled, and discerned the much longer length of Thravang's cheek tendrils. They were easily twice the length for the average Sith Pureblood male. He also regarded the far more prominent and profuse bone ridging on his fellow Padawan's face and neck. Thravang did not have eye “stalk” bones sticking out from his face, but Felahiran had already caught on that such a feature was not consistently found among the Sith Pureblood, so the eye bone spurs must not be that genetically dominant. Nevertheless, Thravang did possess eye ridges where eyebrows would have existed on a human. They just didn't stick out. He also beheld Thravang's unusual molten silver eyes that glowed in the semi darkness of the room corner. Silver was certainly not a typical eye color for Sith Purebloods.

The green skinned Mirialan had sounded very dubious about identifying Thravang as a member of the Sith Pureblood “species”. Everyone knew that the original Sith of Korriban were genetically extinct, right? Yet before him stood someone that made him question the truth of that belief.

Thravang chuckled at Felahiran's uncertain tone and shook his head as he crossed his arms across his chest “I am not a Sith Pureblood, I can assure you.” He changed the subject “Do you know why Master Ritusan wished to see me?”

“I believe it had something to do with the last night you spent here,” Felahiran replied rather primly with his nose wrinkling deeply at the memories of getting farted out of the dorm room.

“Well I suppose I shall have to go see what the matter is. Thank you for delivering the message, Felahiran. I am Thravang Rath, and it was a pleasure to meet you.” He omitted his “middle” name Isâhur since he didn't deem it necessary. With a smile and a shoulder clap, he left Felahiran standing behind with a questioning look growing on his face and far more questions than answers as he strode out of the library to find Master Ritusan.

Felahiran stood rooted to the spot as he stared after the departing Thravang. Rath. What was about Rath that seemed so familiar to him? It felt like an ancient surname. Where had he heard of that name before? Lips pursed, he turned around and sat down in front of a computer terminal where he could access information from the Jedi archives made available freely to Padawans studying at the Jedi Temple to begin his new avenue of research.

 

**** A short while later ****


Thravang had found Master Ritusan, or so he thought. There couldn't be that many male Bothans present at the Jidai Temple. Master Ritusan wore the typical earthy toned Jidai robes and as Thravang walked up to him standing on a balcony overseeing an indoors salle where younglings were taking their beginning combat lessons, Master Ritusan seemed so.. short to him. He had dark chocolate fur, and had tapered pointed ears. His face had a long snout ending in a muzzle that sported a neatly trimmed beard.

“Master Ritusan? Padawan Felahiran Torenil said you wished a word with me?” The male Bothan turned around and stopped short as the Master found himself looking at a hard muscular belly covered by a pale brown tunic. Emerald green eyes rose until he finally found a face. Without a conscious thought, the Master involuntarily stepped back two paces. Master Ritusan breathed “By the stars! You're certainly tall.”

“I am quite unlikely to get any taller than this,” Thravang answered pertly with his face perfectly straight.

Master Ritusan made a tsking noise but elected to move on with what he had really wanted to see Thravang about “So you are Thravang Rath then?”

“Yes, Master.”

The dark Bothan rubbed his chin beard with his hand as the long skirts of his Jidai robes twitched from the movement of his tail “Knight Yalisan thought it best to assign you to your own room and after having a discussion with him, I am inclined to agree.” He gestured with a sweep of his hand “Come, please follow me.”

The Master showed him to a small room which clearly had been used for storage. It was too small to be used as a dormitory room, but for one Padawan, it was just ... barely large enough. There was the usual furniture in place for a Padawan to use – bed, clothing press, a weapon rack, and a desk study. The problem? All the pieces looked like they hadn't seen usage in years and clearly had been pulled straight out of storage.

“I trust this will suffice for you, Padawan. I hope you realize that we are according you treatment that we usually don't grant to Padawans, but you're an .... unique case.” The last words were stated with a rather decidedly wrinkling of the Bothan's nose. “Of course, you will still have the same rules as everyone else on this floor. Knight Yalisan will check on you at regular intervals.” Then the Bothan Jidai Master was gone striding down the hall presumably to return to his supervision of the younglings.

Thravang looked at the retreating back of the Master for a few moments, shrugged and slung his things over onto the bed. Now was the time to find the Head Cook and discuss his dietary requirements to prevent any further smelly ordeals. So he headed down the hall, down the stairs, and through the corridors to the communal mess hall. Once he had gotten things ironed out with the Head Cook, he was given food kept in reserve for the Zabrak Jidai and he took the food to his usual table. He sat down and ate the food with much better appetite and gusto. The Head Cook, Yosif Palad, had been a former Miralukan Padawan who hadn't passed his Knighthood trials and had been assigned to the kitchen staff years ago on Coruscant, had managed to survive the Sacking, and had accompanied the Jidai to Tython.

He returned to his new quarters and paused to privately preen just for a moment that he, of all the Padawans, had his own room and didn't have to share a dorm room with the others. Then he mentally shook his head – now was not the time to let it all go to his head. He settled down onto his bed, crafted from some type of hard wood, and clearly salvaged from the old Jidai Temple on Coruscant, and opened up his datapad to get some reading in. It was a treatise on the light side of the Force from the view of the Jidai, and it bored him enough that he fell asleep quickly.

Some hours later, there was a THUD and a great deal of incoherent yelling in the room. Thravang fought out of his tangled sheets and managed not to curse out loud. Knight Yalisan barged in to find out what the matter was, paused and took the scene in. His lips twitched just briefly before he managed to compose himself. The sad remains of the bed laid splintered on the floor in several pieces. Clearly, the bed must have taken damage from the fighting and from the weather on Coruscant since the Jedi Temple had been exposed to the air. The Knight helped Thravang up with his hand pulling accompanied by a sharp “Ooof!” from the surprise of just how heavy the Padawan was. Thravang paused to rub his back “That bed was uncomfortable. It wasn't right in the length and it wasn't right in the width either. Do I look slender and short to you, Knight Yalisan?”

The Knight had to cough so he wouldn't snicker as he shook his head by way of reply.

“Fair enough,” Thravang grumbled. “Now I have to find somewhere else to spend the night, but not cooped up in a room full of Padawans. Unless you fancy another episode of the swamp gas monster dreams.”

The Knight had to clamp a hand to his mouth to smother a chuckle “Quite right, there's a nice spot in the Temple garden that might suit you for the night. You'll have all the room you need, and the grass is very cushioning. Take your pillow and sheets, and I'll show you where.”

 

 

Chapter Text

 

The night before, Knight Yalisan had promised him that they would locate a bed much more suited to his frame, and had left him in the Temple garden. Thravang had to admit that he had certainly slept far more comfortably on top of the grass wrapped in his sheets. Birdsong had awakened him at the crack of dawn, and he had enjoyed the brief solitude of simply laying there listening to the birds chirp and tweet their daily greetings to the rising sun in what promised to be a clear sunny day before several Jidai had entered the extensive gardens to mediate. There were trees and bushes there and there, and flowers all over the ground with walking paths laid out neatly. The flowers were very sweet smelling in his nostrils. It really wasn't a bad way to wake up to the sun. He stretched lazily then leveled himself off the ground before he collected his makeshift bedding. A Knight clad in short robes of blue and black laid over battle armor arose from a nearby bench made from local wood and nodded to him with a wry smile on her lips.

The Knight was a human with dark brown hair, fair skin and eyes a surprising golden yellow. She was aware of the Sith Pureblood's sharp glance at her eyes and said simply “I have Sith ancestry in my family.” She held out a hand out to him “I'm Knight Varalisse Falasion by the way. Yalisan asked me to keep watch as a favor to him.” Her lips quirked just a tiny bit “Just to make sure no one else snuck in, you understand.”

“Naturally,” was all Thravang said in a tone faintly sarcastic as he clasped hands with the Jidai Knight that had stood watch over him.

She arched an eyebrow at the tone and crossed her arms across her chest as she shifted weight on one leg.

“I just think there would have been no need to mount a guard, Knight Varalisse, with all the Padawans being so... “ he paused as he searched for a diplomatic way to finish what he had in mind to say.

Once again her lips quirked just a tiny bit “So adherent to the Code?” She chuckled “Don't be too surprised, Padawan. Every year, we always catch at least one pair of Padawans being... “ here she paused for a moment “curious enough to experiment.” Now she gave him just a wink and a knowing nod “I don't think I need to tell you more, Padawan.”

Thravang had to muffle a laugh with a hand over his mouth “It is still not encouraged, however.”

Knight Varalisse shook her head at that “The Council does not encourage such behavior.” Now she gave him a curious look as she studied him “You're certainly … much taller than I expected. I didn't think Sith Purebloods reached such heights.” She reached out and tweaked one of his cheek tendrils “They also don't have tendrils that long either.” She shifted her weight to her other leg, arms still crossed across her chest “Well, I suspect you'll be an enigma to the Order.” A moment passed then she spoke again “I best take my leave of you. It was a pleasure to meet you, Thravang Rath. Your name is all over the Temple grounds.” Now she gave him an impish smile and a few hearty chuckles “Just as well that you've got the clearance to sleep alone by yourself.”

He couldn't help but groan as she disappeared through the arched doorway that led into the Temple hallway. He had a feeling that he wasn't going to be able to live that night down for a while. And why had this Jidai Knight let on that the other Padawans weren't as innocent as he had presumed? It was something to chew on as he made his way to the mess hall to eat a meal finally prepared properly for him by the kitchen staff. Perhaps she had been one of those Padawans that had experimented, as she had put it.

 

29 Vidisija Issitahra Turinata 10 ATC

 

After having had a shower and donning a fresh change of Padawan robes, with his belly comfortably full for the first time since his arrival on Tython without its grumbling and growling, Thravang was ready to face the day. Now it was time to head on to Kaleth to check on the Flesh Raiders and see what they were up to.

After locating the right path once he had consulted a map, he strolled towards the bridge that would guide him to the path, and happened to overhear two Masters discussing their students as he drew near. He eyed them and noted that they seemed to be the old and grumpy sort.

I seem to be cursed. Why do I always get the pupils who think they're the exceptions to the rule?”

Master Silvarte, it's true that our Padawans are acting a bit strangely, but I don't think there's cause for concern.”

Thravang was pretending he didn't hear them as he passed them; they were off the side of the path directly before the grey stonework bridge that crossed the noisy flowing river that wound its way across the Jidai Temple grounds.

The conversation paused when one of the Masters spotted him and waved him over “Wait, I have an idea. You, Padawan, I know you.”

Thravang raised an eyeridge “I'm sorry, but I don't believe we have met, Master.” (Such arrogance!)

The Master, this Master Silvarte, frowned and faintly flushed but he mumbled an apology “Thank you, I stand corrected, youngster. I only know of you.”

The eyeridge only rose higher at that remark. Youngster? Granted, the Master was old, but that was hardly the proper way to address someone else. He held his tongue rather than say something that surely would land him in scalding water.

The other Master, a Nikto, explained “Master Silvarte is concerned about a couple of our Padawans. He suspects that they are, well...” (Padawans, plural? Are they so short on Masters that the training Masters have to take several on at one time? I had one Master and two Knights working with me for four years. And he can't even bear to finish that sentence of his. Are they so afraid of emotions? That Knight from the Temple garden was at least more forthright. Perhaps by the time those ajiusona become Masters, their spirit get sucked out of them by that Code of theirs.)

The balding white haired Human Master finished the sentence left hanging in the air “If I am correct, they are following their passions down a dark path.” (Dark path, indeed! What do those two Masters think their students are doing? Sneaking off to a secret assignation with Sith spies? Having their way with dead corpses? Merely experimenting with sex isn't hardly what I would consider dark.) Of course, he didn't speak his thoughts aloud. He wasn't that foolish. He did have to wonder what it would be like; he was of age now, but if he was going to satisfy his curiosity, it surely would not be here. Not with all the eyes on him.

Both Masters gave him a meaningful look until he finally had to ask what exactly did they want him to do about the situation. He was just a Padawan, after all.

The pale brown Nikto continued thoughtfully “In all other aspects, those two are model pupils. But I agree that we would be remiss if we didn't do what we can do to settle the issue.” (In other words, what they consider model pupils are sheep that follow the Code blindly.)

The human nodded his agreement with that statement “They may be more open and revealing with a student like you. We need you to confront them and discover if they are indeed cultivating a romance.”

The eyeridge rose nearly into his maroon hair as Thravang folded his arms across his chest. There was silence for a minute before Thravang finally spoke with an acidic tone “So I am basically to become a glorified snoop, then.” His body language expressed how much he disapproved of the notion.

Master Silvarte, the human, was utterly undeterred “You are helping the Order root out the seeds of darkness. There is no task more important.” (Seeds of darkness? HA! I fully know the atrocities my ancestors have done in the distant past, and mere sex is not a seed of darkness. Hardly at all. So afraid, they are. They do not know themselves.)

The Nikto Master gave Thravang the names of their “model pupils”; Moracen and Spanios, and told him where he could find them – the ruins of Lower Kaleth. Thravang felt excitement rise inside him at the mention of Kaleth, but he made sure that his outer countenance was calm. He was finally going to see Kaleth for himself. The Je'daii Order had been long absent from Tython for thousands of years. Especially his Je'daii ancestors. Mentally, he was gleefully rubbing his hands in anticipation of what he might discover there. He merely listened as the Master blabbered on “So go, talk with them, and report back what you discover about their relationship. Try not to alert or alarm them. If they are in love, they are sure to be volatile.”

He managed not to scoff as he bowed his head and took his leave of them as he turned back to the path and crossed the bridge. He shook his head once he was sure they weren't watching him. (By the red sands! If they are volatile, it is only because it has been forbidden, and only because they have not been taught to handle emotions properly. Oh wait, what emotional training? There is none. After all that precious Code of theirs does say in the first line “There is no emotion, there is only peace.”)

He knew that there was a little base camp set up by the Jidai on the perimeter of the ruins, so he headed there first to see if he could gather information about the ruins that he was going to be heading into shortly. It took him a day to hike there.

 

**** The next day ****

 

He had stayed overnight at the camp, and had learned some things for himself. One of the Jidai there had been on a mission to collect data from the droids that guarded Kaleth now. That piece of information was new to him. He had pulled out his Jidai issued datapad and scribbled the relevant information down in the flowing Tsis script with his stylus. Another Jidai had mentioned the existence of some ancient technology in a cave somewhere, laid dormant for millennia, and that it needed a source of power. He could obtain some power cores from the ancient war droids that were apparently hostile to everything.

He didn't look backwards at the small base camp that the Jidai had established as his thoughts turned to Kaleth. With a part of his mind set to watch his surroundings as he softly padded forth on the dirt path, he reviewed the tales that the Lorekeeper had softly chanted to him and his siblings on long cold wintry evenings during his childhood and early youth. The Lorekeeper had been an elderly woman that had retired from her job as a nanny to the Royal House once her old bones had protested too much, and she had learnt the tales of olden days long gone so she could recite them to the children and anyone else that cared to sit and listen. He smiled fondly as he recalled her sitting in an age worn chair ornately carved from a local hardwood a deep rich brown with golden streaks. She always had a warm blanket of tawny golden fur covering her lap and she always had a tolerant gentle smile for her audience, born from years of handling Force sensitive miscreants, and a knowing twinkle in her dark amber eyes that glowed softly.

In the days of old, in the days of the Order, when they studied the mysteries of the Force and sought to understand the Force, and sought to attain balance in the Force, there were nine great Temples on Tython. Each Temple was founded around one Tho Vor, and there were nine Tho Vor. Nine to match nine, you see. Each Temple had its own specialization in the study of the Force. Now I shall tell you about Kaleth, the Temple of Knowledge. It was overseen by a Temple Master whose name has long been lost to the mists of time in the days of young Guvazotir Churâsil Rath. As you should know, it was he who established the Order among our Clans when he discovered us lost adrift in deep space after he became a Master. Kaleth was set deep in a heavily forested valley, it is said, in the western mountain ranges of the Tythos Ridge. That location was chosen because there was a nexus in the Force there, and thus, Kaleth was where all the Je'daii gathered to undertake decisions for important matters. Judgments were also rendered there that affected the entire Order...”

His rather sentimental reverie was cut short by the mental shrill warning of his second stream of consciousness as an ancient war droid took aim at him with its blaster pistol and missed which he dodged easily with a twisting of his torso and an abrupt short exclamation of dismay before he yanked his warblade free of its scabbard and made short work of the droid. He made a mental note to be more aware of his surroundings; this hadn’t been the time to go woolgathering.

After whacking several more groups of those war droids, he spied the two Padawans in a little stand of trees where they couldn’t be readily seen by the droids. He picked his way over the metal corpses across a broad expansion of verdant swarth with a derelict fountain in the midst to the little copse. He noted that the couple were not paying heed to anything save themselves. (Fools. I daresay they won’t notice a droid in time to avoid getting shot.)

A Zabrak and a human, but he did not think much of it. After four years of traveling with Master Iakan and the two Knights, he was now accustomed to seeing different species and how they would interact with each other. He caught snatches of their conversation as he approached them.

You found it! Well done, Moracen!”

Oh, Spanios. I couldn’t have done it without you.”

You’re amazing. I don’t care what the Masters say. We’re proving everyone wrong. Come here and give me a kiss…”

He interrupted them at that point by saying with a slow deliberate wink “When you’re done with him, I’ll take one too.”

The young male Zabrak asked “Who are you?”

The young human woman hastily added “This isn’t what you think it is.”

Thravang raised one eyebrow and made a casual hand gesture “I think you two are romantically involved.”

The two exchanged glances then the Zabrak turned back to him and admitted “Okay, maybe it is what you think it is.”

The human, Moracen, exclaimed in apprehension “Spanios!”

“I’m sorry, my love, but I’m sick of hiding. The Order is wrong.” The Zabrak’s face was solemn. As Thravang looked on with his head tilted to one side, the young male continued “Fear, not emotion, is the adversary of the Jedi way. Ironically, the Masters fear emotion, and there they deny us its bounty.”

Thravang knew perfectly very well what he was supposed to say. But to have said so would have made him a hypocrite. His own people functioned just fine without the Jidai Code or Sith Code. There was a Code that they did follow, but he wasn’t going to get into that with the star-crossed Padawans in front of him.

Moracen chipped in with “The power of our love is why we work so well together. Our teamwork allowed us to find this rare lightsaber crystal.”

Thravang heaved a sigh as the wind ruffled his long flowing hair before he pointed a black clawed finger at the two Padawans “I do want you two to consider what your Masters would think. I rather doubt that they will be easy to convince.”

Moracen burst out “Spanios, please help me convince this upstart not to expose us!”

“I love you, Moracen. And if you believe we must remain hidden, I honor that, but it may take a sacrifice,” the Zabrak answered.

“You mean the crystal. I agree, my love.”

“Friend, if you tell the Masters we’re not romantically involved, we’ll give you this

powerful crystal for your future lightsaber. Would that buy your silence?”

For a long moment all Thravang could do was just stare at them in dismayed disbelief. He was being bribed not to report them! He was feeling rather offended, as if his honor was in question. He was quite sorely tempted to face palm himself. He ground out between clenched teeth “I’ll decide what to do when I return to your Masters.”

Spanios nodded “We’ll hold out hope, and if you tell them that you found nothing suspicious, return to us.”

Moracen added as a warning “Don’t you dare try to fool us; we will know if you do.”

Thravang simply gave a sharp nod of his head, turned, and continued on his way deeper into the ruins. After collecting the memory cores from the droids, he finally discovered the entry to a tunnel in one of the cliff sides in the ruins. He paused in front of the opening long enough to do some quick preliminary sketches of what he had seen in the ruins so far as he pummeled his brain for anything in the tales the Lorekeeper had told the children about Kaleth. Then he mentally shook his head. Kaleth was in ruins now, the tales covered a Kaleth of some twenty-odd thousand years ago in the quite distant past.

He entered the darkened tunnel with care as to what he might find, the scent of decaying death laid thick on the still air in his flaring nostrils. He slowly walked forward with his warblade already drawn and ready to strike in his left hand. He did not have to go far before he came across Flesh Raiders inside the tunnel. They were of a different sort compared to the ones he had encountered in the Tythos Ridge. They were not much of a hindrance to him as he moved through the tunnel and out onto a deep clearing nestled within a hollow. He paused to gaze around and noted an ancient shrine in the midst of the dell fallen into ruin. He also spotted Flesh Raiders moving about the shrine. His objective was clear; he had to stop them. So he strode forward with his warblade at the ready until he drew near the figures.

“Jeehd-ay…”

He raised an eyeridge at that, he hadn’t thought the Flesh Raiders to be capable of speech. He mentally grimaced at himself, he had made the elemental mistake of underestimating his enemy. He studied the Flesh Raider standing before him, this one had a mishmash of armor and seemed to have superior status. A Chieftain, perhaps? Thravang raised a hand in a warning gesture “Go peacefully, or face the consequences. This is your only warning.” He stood in a defensive stance with his warblade held ready for a block.

The Flesh Raider chieftain chuckled, just as Thravang had expected, and launched an attack on him with the Force. He quickly discovered himself shoved backwards a good twenty feet and wound up on his back in a patch of grass heavily flowered with yellow petals. He quickly leapt to his feet and made another mental grimace to himself. One of those days, he would learn to defend against Force push, but today was not that day. He also knew that he would be developing bruises under his dark maroon skin shortly. He had slammed into the ground. As soon as he had regained his footing and was scowling at the Chieftain, the Flesh Raider screeched “Kill Jeehd-ay!” as the Chieftain pointed at him. The fight was on!

The corpses of the Flesh Raiders littered the ground around the shrine when two figures rushed out from the tunnel. Thravang spun around and lowered his blade when he saw that the two figures were female Jidai. It was that Togruta Jidai Master and her Padawan he recalled from the meeting at the Jidai Temple. Grimacing in distaste, he cleaned the blade of his warblade on the most clean scraps of leather he could find on the Flesh Raider bodies, then sheathed the weapon. He glanced behind him at the now peaceful shrine for a moment then turned to face the two women. He was not in pain.. Yet. He strove to remember the adult’s name… ah yes, that was it, Master Kiwiiks, and her Padawan’s name was Kira. The Togruta said “Master Orgus sent us. We came as quickly as we could.”

He gestured at the now still bodies “One of the Flesh Raiders I just fought called me “Jidai.” He could also use the Force, he Force pushed me.” He pointed to the patch of grass, now flattened with the yellow flower petals scattered all over, to show how far he had been pushed.

The Master looked troubled as she answered “That’s troubling. If the Flesh Raiders are learning the ways of the Force, it won’t be on the side of light.”

Thravang was not inclined to argue with that sentiment.

Kira stared at the corpses Thravang had left on the ground in an erratic fashion then looked at him “You sure made short work of this bunch. You ever leave survivors?”

His left eyeridge rose high into his brow as he bluntly asked Kira “When was the last time you fought someone trying to kill you?”

“Besides my Master? Eh… a few months,” was her swift response.

Thravang quickly found himself hiding a smile. He rather liked her sense of humor. It had to be a joke, right? He cast a glance at the Togruta Master. Sure enough, the Master admonished her student “This is no laughing matter, Padawans.”

Thravang stood aside as he watched Master Kiwiiks rummage through the bodies. She was clearly checking for something, and she stood up with something in her hands. It was a small squared box that had purple inlay metal and had a blue colored matrix. It was a Jidai holocron. One that looked quite ancient.

Her comment confirmed his initial thought “This Flesh Raider carried a holocron - a repository of knowledge created by a Force user. Thousands of years old, from the looks of it.” (I know what a holocron is. What am I, the local Temple ajiusona? Even the youngest students would know what a holocron is.)

She continued, blithely unaware of his uncharitable thoughts, “Master Orgus was right. These natives are more advanced than we realized. They’re learning how to fight us.” (Well duh. Ignore something long enough, and you’ll always be caught off guard when they do something you did not expect.)

He decided to ask a question that no one had explained to him before “What do the Flesh Raiders have against us?” As far as he knew, the Jidai had pretty much left everything else alone and not interfered. Case in point, the Twi’lek village. They hadn’t gotten involved until now when the threat of the Flesh Raiders became too great to ignore.

“From their perspective, we’ve invaded their home -- but there’s more to this than a territorial dispute,” the Master told him. “I wish we could stay, see this through - but Master Satele has ordered us to Coruscant on a special mission.”

He crossed his arms and was about to make a comment about what fine help they would be to him when Kira spoke “All those bad feelings the Council’s been having? She thinks the Republic capital is the source.”

Master Kiwiiks sagely nodded “I’m sorry to have to leave you, but the danger is passed. These surveillance monitors will keep watch on Kaleth.” She held out several packages to him. He took them, taking care to keep his face neutral, and listened to her finish “Place them around the ruins. The temple can then monitor any future incursions by our enemies.”

He muttered “Maybe we’ll get lucky and find their leader.”

“May the Force be with you, Padawan.”

He watched them leave. The danger was definitely not past. By the crown of Adas, any fool could see that. Now that he was not being observed, he was free to pinch his nose with his left fingers as he shook his head. Once again he was on his own. He grumbled sourly to himself as he pulled out his sketch pad and made a drawing of the shrine and the hollow that it laid in. After a moment of consideration, he also drew the corpses of the slain Flesh Raiders to display how they had looked while alive. He then headed back to the ruins and found suitable places to plant the monitors, made several more sketches as he wandered around the ruins and killed yet more of the time crazed ancient war droids.

During his wandering, he discovered the cave where the Chamber of Speech lurked, hidden, and discovered much to his sorrow that the computer had become so thoroughly corrupted by the passage of long years that all the knowledge it contained was lost forever, save for what little Thravang had been able to retrieve from the Gatekeeper. He also sketched that as well. His immediate tasks done, he made his way back to the little camp and had the medical droid tend to his bruised back. On the morrow, he would return to his Master. He had received a holocall while in the ruins to meet his Master at the Twi’lek settlement, but it would take time for Orgus Din to return there, so he was free to spend the night in the camp before beginning his travel once more.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

31 Lorija Urnishra Turinata 10 ATC

 

For two days he had trudged through a fierce storm that had abruptly sprang up since his departure from that little camp at the edge of the Kaleth ruins. This storm was no ordinary storm. From the Lorekeeper's tales that she spun for her listeners, he knew that Tython was extraordinarily sensitive to the Force. The Jidai imbeciles must have done something. Or perhaps that mysterious leader of the Flesh Raiders had done something. It was a toss-up between the twain at this point. As he made sure his hood was completely pulled over his head to shelter his face from the lashing gales, he shook his head. A sharp harsh blinding crack of light followed by a rolling crash of thunder flowed over his weather darkened figure as he crossed a wide-open meadow empty of living creatures. It was like the beasts had the wits to take shelter under the wildly waving boughs of the trees some distance away. Suddenly, he felt a warning and threw up a Force shield just before he got knocked flying into the trees. He laid there, wind knocked out of him, as he spent a few moments gasping for air before he slowly rose up against the ak tree that had helpfully interrupted his short flight. Quite painfully. Cold rain now ran down his exposed face in a flood of rivulets and he shook them free as he yanked his hood up and over his head. He stood still for a long silent moment to finish gathering his wits then glanced up at the raging storm in the blackened skies. He simply couldn't wait it out here, surely the village could offer better shelter than the trees. Now if he could just avoid any more lightning strikes. He sighed heavily and clicked his tongue in dismay, he was now going to have to alter his planned route so he wouldn't be crossing wide open spaces until the storm either abated or he got to the village.

Several hours later he spotted the village walls through the sheer curtain of rain in front of his face and quickened his pace as he hurried. He wanted to get through the land they kept clear of trees so the guards would have excellent visibility for anyone approaching the village. He did not heave a sigh of relief until he was safely within the Matriarch's quarters. He ducked behind a screen to change out of his sodden robes and trews into dry ones from his traveling backpack. He had already espied his Master tending to the droid, what was its name again? Oh right, it was Teeseven. There were so many astromechs he had run across that it was hard to remember the name of one single droid.

Orgus spoke without looking at him “Master Kiwiiks told me what you found in Kaleth – a Flesh Raider who used the Force.” At that, Thravang could only surmise that the Togruta had contacted his Master by holo and had debriefed the older male as he subconsciously stretched his back out to check how bruised it still felt after three days. “She thought he was learning things from an holocron. I wish that were true.”

Now that, Thravang agreed with. He did not think the Flesh Raiders advanced enough in intelligence to be able to learn things from a mere object, no matter how well constructed the Gatekeeper was. No, they have had to be taught by someone, but whom? That was the question, indeed.

Orgus stood up and turned to face him “The man who attacked you when you first arrived? His lightsaber had a familiar aspect. This droid's holorecording confirmed my suspicions.”

Much to his surprise, the droid bowed its head “T7 = sorry for bringing bad news.”

“The hooded figure in that recording is named Bengel Morr. He was my Padawan – but he never completed his training.” (By the red sands! Oh lovely, now he'll expect his new Padawan to take on and defeat his old Padawan. Really, just how delightful.) Blithely unaware of his Padawan's thoughts, the Master continued “Bengel was in the Jedi Temple on Coruscant when the Sith destroyed it.”

Thravang tugged at his cheek tendril briefly before he answered “The Force was with him if he got out of there alive. Why did he wait this long to reveal himself?” (Perhaps the attack was too much for him to bear. Nevertheless, that does not excuse his actions. He should have been made of more stern stuff than that.)

“The temple was annihilated. Hundreds of Jedi died that day. We never recovered all the bodies. Still don't understand why he just disappeared. Doesn't make any sense. Bengel was strong in the Force, and the gentlest being I've ever known. For him to turn against the Jedi... he has to be stopped.” (Humph. He wasn't emotionally strong enough to handle it, you mean. Curse you Jidai, you don't train your Padawans properly. All you do is shove that first line of the Code down their throats until they either swallow or choke on it.)

Anything that Thravang would have said to his Master at this point was rendered moot by the arrival of Ranna Tao'Ven – the green Twi'lek woman who had been assisting them with intel about the Flesh Raiders. The woman nodded to the two Jidai and apologized for keeping them waiting with the sorrowful news of her mother, the Matriarch, dying. He gave his heartfelt condolences, his hopes that she would be alright in due time, and murmured that she should be at her mother's side.

Ranna gave him this look and answered “You're kind, but my mother wants me here.” She proceeded to inform them about a command base that her scouts had discovered hidden in the mountains by energy shields, and that the shield generators were well guarded in a different cave complex in another mountain.

Orgus turned to Thravang and asked “You up for knocking out the shield generator?”

The tall Tsis nodded and held out both his hands “When have I ever let you down?”

Orgus replied in a half teasing tone as he lifted an eyebrow “First time for everything – not that I'm worried.”

At that point the droid spoke up “Important secondary mission = perform high-level scan of enemy forces // Mountains paths = too dangerous for T7.”

Orgus looked off into the distance with a thoughtful expression on his face “Hmm. See if you can give T7 the opening he needs to gather more intelligence, Padawan.”

“T7 = give Jedi head start // Follow when path is clear.”

Orgus seemed satisfied with that and turned to Thravang with a sterner look “That energy shield is your top priority. Knock it out fast as you can.”

Thravang simply bowed his head in acknowledgment “May the Force be with you, Master.” Then he took himself out with the droid in tow behind him.

As he strolled past one of the buildings towards the heavily guarded village gate, he was hailed by another Twi'lek woman. Her skin leaned more towards yellowish than outright green, and her lekku markings were like a rusty orange in color. He turned to face her with an expectant face. Those villagers seemed to be so desperate in need of Jidai help that they had been denied for far too long due to the idiotic policy the Council had undertaken with them. She burst out with “Jedi! You came! I was afraid – I didn't think you'd make it. You have to be fast. You have to find my son before he's hurt!”

Thravang was now bewildered – what under the red sands did she mean? He raised a hand to stop her continued barrage of words “I'm sorry, I don't understand. What about your son?”

Her face turned sorrowful and rather pitiful in her maternal worry for her son. In a few more moments, he warranted that she would have started crying, and he really hated that. “I knelt at the temple gates. I begged for Jedi help. Isn't that why you came?” She bowed her head as she gazed at the ground “The Flesh Raiders took him a week ago. They came at twilight. One of them was just … covered in blood and scars. He dragged my son away. Listen. Our scouts saw Viyo – my son – on Tythos Ridge. That's where the Raiders have their camp. They say he's hurt. He's bleeding and limping, but he's alive. He's waiting for rescue.”

He frowned “I'm a Jidai, this is what we're here for.” (One week and not dead yet. There might be hope for her son, after all. I have the strong impression that the Flesh Raiders do not normally keep captives alive that long. There must be a reason.)

Thravang shifted his weight from one leg to the other one as she continued “If you can't find him on Tythos Ridge, look for a sign – something he'd leave behind as a signal. He had his satchel with him. He could leave that.”

Now she pleaded with him “The Flesh Raiders will try to stop you – but I've seen Jedi fight. Help me, Jedi. Help him.” Now she gave him a hopeful expression with just a tiny smile that looked propitious

He passed out of the village, through the Hollows, and into the upper reaches of the Tythos Ridge. This time, there was not that much clashing of metal on poorly mismatched armor thanks to his previous work in the past few weeks. Either he had thinned their numbers enough, or they were avoiding him on purpose, recognizing him as the dark red skinned giant who had slain so many of their number in combat. Currently, he was the only “Sith Pureblood” present on Tython at the Jidai Temple. He slowed his walk as he searched the dusty path in front of him in a particular step-step-step-pause-step-step-step-pause cadence for any sign of a dropped satchel. He was fairly certain that at this point in time, Viyo would have dropped it. He was about to step forward again after the umpteenth time when he spotted the satchel lying half hidden under a scraggly bush just off the path near what passed for a dwelling among the Flesh Raiders.

Stifling a shout of triumph, he scampered to seize the satchel and swept it off the ground. He squatted near the ground, as low as his frame would allow him to, and glanced around. There had to be a side path somewhere, leading off the main path higher up a ridge. He felt the Force draw his eyes to a spot, then he saw what he sought. He rose quickly with his left hand gripping the hilt of his warblade as he crept to that path. He slanted his silver eyes up the dusty track and did not see any obvious signs of recent death, nor did he scent recent death. He carefully climbed the dusty track to the top of the ridge where he came to a little campsite with broken wooden posts set into the ground to create a crude enclosure.

Scantly had he arrived at the campsite when a young yellow-greenish Twi'lek male greeted him with “Jedi...? Thank the Matriarch.”

Thravang scanned the campsite, there was a Flesh Raider dwelling with a hanging light attached to it, and that was where the Twi'lek had emerged from.

He nodded briefly at the Twi'lek and inquired “Are you Viyo son of Trea Kobbeth?”

The young male affirmed that yes, it was his name. Before Viyo could say more, they were interrupted by a Flesh Raider that popped out of the crude tent and came over to them. Thravang raised an eyeridge as he studied the Flesh Raider. This Flesh Raider was rather unusual in appearance. For one, the only weapon he carried was a training saber that must have been taken from a Padawan some time ago. Probably one that had dropped it and ran for safety. Smart idea to run, but dumb idea to drop the weapon. (By the black blood of Adas! You never provide your enemies with something they can use against you!)

He almost tsked at the thought, but now was not the time to express his sentiments. Secondly, the Flesh Raider was garbed rather plainly. No mismatched metal armor. Instead, he wore what passed for a vest with his chest exposed to plain view. He hadn't known that the Flesh Raiders had chests with rows of bony protrusions running down the center. His feet were wrapped with fabric, and he was adorned with a loincloth of the same fabric. The fabric material looked like something the Flesh Raider would have rummaged from salvage, since the fabric was varying brown in color. Definitely nothing that he could recognize.

This Flesh Raider also spoke. He even pronounced Jidai right. “Hsst! Jedi talk. Jedi peace!” He was now getting flashbacks to his own lessons in Basic, and how crude it had been at the beginning. The smugglers had started the lessons, and Master Iakan had finished the lessons.

Viyo made a hand gesture at the Flesh Raider “He... he wants to speak to you. He's too weak to fight.” (Too weak to fight? A Flesh Raider? Might as well build a boat and sail it through the sea of stars to Naraka.)

For once, Thravang was finally able to satisfy his curiosity. He noticed that the Flesh Raider had blue eyes, and his teeth were quite pointed and on the crooked side, and that he had what seemed to be eight nostrils above his mouth, four to a side.

The Flesh Raider held out a hand “Jedi – Jedi peace!”

Viyo attempted his best to convey what his most strange companion wanted “He needed someone to help him communicate. That's why he took me away. It's why he's letting us meet. I've been trying to teach him Basic.”

Thravang pursed his lips in thought as he inquired “So this Flesh Raider took you to act as his translator? Do you even know his name?” He silently amended (If those... creatures have names.)

Viyo confirmed “Yes. It's hard, though, and I can't tell when he understands. I think his name is Fashk. I – I....” (Huh, they DO have names. They are not as primitive as the idiotic Jidai have estimated.)

At that point whatever might have been said was lost as Fashk pointed a finger at Thravang “Head-thing talk! Head-thing talk, learn power.”

Viyo immediately held his arms out with palms down to placate the Flesh Raider “I'm trying! Please, I'm trying.” Then he turned back to the now extremely curious Thravang. Fashk was behaving like no other Flesh Raider that Thravang had personally witnessed. “He thinks he has power. He thinks he can use the Force, and he wants Jedi to train him.”

Thravang raised an skeptical eyeridge as he asked “Why would he want that?”

“I know. I told him that. He really believes he's like the Jedi. Though.” It was then that Thravang noticed that Viyo had brilliant blue eyes. Rather striking, that, given the Twi'lek's pale yellowish skin with darker orange freckles on his cheekbones and drab olive markings on his lekku. “He says he can feel the Jedi's power when he comes close to the temple. He says he can... he can smell power in the rocks. It makes him strong.” Then the Twi'lek cast a glance at the Flesh Raider at his side before he continued “The other Flesh Raiders serve him because they fear his curse, but the Force overwhelms him. He needs to learn from the Jedi to control the power. He's weak.” (So he is weak because he can not control himself and not in a consistent manner. Makes sense.)

Thravang played with a cheek tendril for a few moments before he finally questioned “Does he even understand what he's asking? What Jidai training involves?”

“I'm not sure. He thinks the Jedi are hunters.” (Hunters of knowledge, yes. Hunters of anything else? Not much.)

Fashk spoke up then “Take power! Hunt power! Go rock-den... head-thing flesh.”

“He won't let me go unless you help me get into the Jedi Temple. You can do that, right? Get the Jedi Masters to train him?” Viyo sounded really anxious.

Thravang sighed “I'll go to the temple and see what I can do. I can not guarantee that they will take him.” He had a hunch that if he refused, Viyo would not last much longer.

“Hsst. Rock-den power. Go rock-den, go tree-den.”

Thravang took it to translate as 'go to the temple, go to a .. camp, perhaps?'

Viyo confirmed his guess “We can meet you at a spot outside the Flesh Raiders' camp. We'll make camp along the path and watch for you.” He turned and pointed in the general direction of where the campsite would be outside the territory; Thravang thought it might be somewhere along a trail in the Tythos river valley. He nodded at both – the location made sense; not too far from the Jidai Temple, but not near enough to be discovered quickly. The Jidai didn't even have patrols. Either they had far too much faith in themselves, or they were far too few in numbers to ensure the security of their territory. “But... be careful. I'd like to go home very soon.” The undertone of his voice said preferably alive. Then the twain, Twi'lek and Flesh Raider, turned and returned to their makeshift dwelling. Thravang took it as his cue to leave.

 

*** Some hours later ***

 

He was now deep within Flesh Raider territory, and deep within a cave he had discovered at top of a path leading up another ridge that overlooked a valley full of those haphazardly makeshift dwellings slapped together from salvaged materials. His warblade saw heavy use as he fought his way through Flesh Raider Boneguards until he met up with the Chieftain and slew him too. He noticed that the Chieftain had a far more decent tent that didn't look assembled from a wild assortment of salvage. It was also well lit too. He turned away from the tent; he rather doubted that it would contain anything of interest to him nor to his mission, and pressed deeper in until he came to something very incongruous. A computer terminal, complete with a small holo transceiver attached to one of the end consoles. He swiftly located the keyboard and started tapping away as he peered intently at the monitor looking for the program to shut down the energy shield. There, it was now down with a mere click of his finger. A hologram flared to life from that transceiver, and Thravang turned to see who it was. A male Nautolan in what seemed to be old Jidai armour, he thought, from the looks of the shimmering figure.

“Hmm. You must be the Padawan who slaughters my people.” (Ha! What people? No one in full possession of mental faculties would claim the Flesh Raiders as “my people.”) There was a pause as the male's eyes widened momentarily at the sight of Thravang after the Padawan had turned fully towards him with arms crossed across his broad chest. “Your misguided attacks change nothing. Your time is over.”

Thravang could not help but snort in derision “We'll see about that. Master Orgus is looking for you, Bengel.” There could be no other possible identity for the strange Nautolan based on what Master Orgus had told him.

“Orgus won't find me. I will find him. You executed my apprentice Callef. I can feel his death on you.” (Ajiusona! Execution? I would hardly call it that. He was about to kill a defenseless Padawan.) Thravang rolled his eyes as Bengel continued “I spent years training him. He was a good man, a principled man. Proud of yourself?” (Oh please! By the crown of Adas, this man can not be serious. Good man? Principled? He is so deluded, he is grasping at straws in a grossly misguided effort to justify his actions and thoughts.)

“Your so called 'apprentice' was quite willing to sully his own honor by killing a defenseless Padawan. He had no principles to speak of, and he left me no choice.” Thravang's tone was quite flat.

“There's always a choice. You should've surrendered to the inevitable. Every so-called Jedi on Tython is going to die. That's a promise. Your entire order is weak. You're done nothing to stop the Sith Empire's advances.” (By the black blood of Adas, he's definitely a cracked egg. His sanity has leaked out years ago. You have made your choice, and so have I.)

“Don't give in to hatred, Bengel. Let us help you.” Thravang knew that Bengel would not accept the offer, but he still had to make the offer so he could tell the Council with a clear mind that his offer had been rejected.

“Help me become a coward like you? I'm the only true Jedi left in the galaxy.” (By the crown, why am I stuck with this blithering ajiusona? Him, the only true Jidai? He's really cracked.) Now Thravang did pinch his nose with his fingers.

“Enjoy this little victory. It's your last.” Then Bengel vanished from sight. Bengel had tried to taunt him with that little comment, but Thravang was not buying it. He was going to have to return to the Jidai Temple and warn the Masters. He grumbled to himself for a few moments before he hoisted his traveling haversack and retraced his route though the Flesh Raider infested lands.

 

33 Katmitaja Urnishra Turinata 10 ATC

 

He was finally back at the Jidai Temple, and was walking towards the great flight of stairs that led into the Jidai Temple when he passed two Padawans having a conversation. He did not recognize them, but both were humans and judging by their appearances, they were older teenagers. The young male seemed to be complaining about how slow their training was.

“Jerikko, our training is slow for a reason.”

“Cora, I don't care! I'm ready for the final trial.”

“The Forge? You can't be serious! You could die.”

“Maybe. My Master can't keep me a Padawan forever, can he?”

 

Thravang mentally shook his head. Jerikko was right that he couldn't be kept a Padawan forever, but if he was already impatient, that bespoke a character flaw that would do him in sooner rather than later. He took care of some business by speaking to two different Jidai Masters about errands he had embarked on while running after the Flesh Raiders to see what they had been up to, then went to eat a proper meal and got a full night's rest for once in his little room. He had been glad to see the full size bed they had promised him. It even was the proper length and had enough padding that he had been able to slumber peacefully without snoring.

The next morning, after a bath and his fast broken, he went up the ramp to the top floor to find the Master in charge of new recruits for the Order. He strode into the large room where there was a massive holoprojector that displayed a galaxy wide map the Jidai used to keep track of events and locations that they had Jidai assigned to. He approached the brown robed human male that was mostly bald but had a high ponytail as the man stood gazing at the holomap. Thravang hid a grimace at the sight of that tonsure. The man would be far better served going completely bald instead of trying to preserve what imaginary “dignity” the man thought he had left with his hair loss. The bearded man turned to face him when Thravang coughed discreetly behind him and as soon as he caught sight of the young Tsis, he frowned “Forgive me, young Jedi, but I do not have time to give lessons these days. My only concern is administering to the Order's new recruits. If you are here on an unrelated matter, I fear I have no help to offer.”

Thravang nobly refrained from rolling his eyes “I'm here on business, Master Strayen. I found a Flesh Raider that wishes to become a Jidai.”

The Master's brown eyes widened in shock at the news “A Flesh Raider? Are you serious?” He prevaricated as he studied the flooring with downcast eyes as he gestured with a hand “My understanding is that those creatures are primitive, cruel and bloodthirsty – not ideally prepared for the lifestyle of a Jedi.”

Even Thravang had to agree with that assessment “That's the way I understand it. However, he does have a name, and he did not attack me on sight. He spoke to me, Master, with the help of a Twi'lek boy from the village.” (Granted, Viyo had been kidnapped, but the fact he remains alive and not eaten does speak for itself with that Flesh Raider and still is a marked improvement compared to what is known about those creatures.)

“And yet you come to me anyway.” Such a simple statement made by the Master before he continued “Even assuming this recruit is strong in the Force, do you really think such a dangerous student could be taught?”

“The Jidai managed to teach me, didn't they?” Thravang simply responded.

“Indeed. I've heard stories,” Master Strayen admitted. Stories of his temper. Stories of the language barrier he had for a while since his Basic hadn't been much more than just rudimentary. Even now, he spoke with a thick and heavy accent that was quite lyrical. Stories of his combat aggression, yet those very same stories also spoke of his combat skill. Stories of how uneducated he had been in the eyes of the Jedi Order. He had so much to learn in four short years, and yet here he was on Tython. Stories of how skeptical and argumentative he had been, and Master Iakan's struggles to teach him the Code and the tenets that the Jedi Order swore by.

In the next moment, the Master reached a decision “Very well. Send your recruit to the temple. Give him this medallion, and the watchmen will know to grant him passage.” He handed Thravang the medallion, a simple token enameled with the symbol of the Jedi Order on top in silver and sky blue, before he resumed speaking “When he arrives, I will consult with the Jedi Council. We will do what we can.” Thravang knew a dismissal when he heard one. He simply inclined his head and left.

He once again headed out after fetching some more traveling rations and stowing them away in his backpack. He now had to find Viyo and Fashk at their little campsite. On his search he passed by the Twi'lek village, and he happened to overhear snatches of a conversation between some villagers standing near the gates.

 

“Please, Joti, go to the Jedi again. We can't wait for the Flesh Raiders to kill us all.”

“Kariya, the Jedi aren't interested. We've sent plenty of requests for help. Nothing. We'll have to fight the Flesh Raiders ourselves. Round up a militia, try another attack... something.”

“Joti, the last time we went out, they ate people. Ate them.”

“Kariya, what choice do we have?”

 

Once he was safely out of earshot down the path he thought might lead him into a more sheltered valley away from the Hollows where he might find the campsite, Thravang shook his head and muttered several choice phrases in the native tongue of his people. He knew very well why the Jidai had not sent help, but he was not the one to explain to the villagers. He had been assisting the villagers, true, but he was only one, and a Padawan at that on the request of his Master. A militia was a good idea, but a terrible idea if the militia had no training and no equipment to deal effectively with the Flesh Raiders. He wondered if it was because people had become too dependent on the Jidai for help. It did seem that way. He clicked his tongue in disapproval at that notion. The moment you became too dependent on someone, you shackled yourself and became a mere shadow of what you could have been, and he privately vowed to himself never to fall victim to that trap.

He paused long enough under one of the native Tythonian trees and pulled out the rough sketches of the territory he had passed through so far to determine where he hadn't been yet. He found a trail called the Elarian trail that had branched off into the river valley, and that same trail also passed near the Jidai camp near the ruins of Kaleth, and he traced the route with a finger on his datapad. Ah yes, it might be the one he sought. It seemed that routes from the village were very few. He was going to have to retrace his steps a fair bit if he did not wish to traipse through the Hollows again. So he turned around with a heavy sigh and sauntered his way through the forests and over the river to where the Elarian trail began, and took the south branching. It wound its merry way through glades of tall trees with long narrow leaves that were prickly to the touch, and the trail path also stayed near the river. At first the trail had begun gently next to the river and now it steadily rose higher above the noise of the rushing water until the trail sat on top of a cliff passing by waterfalls. He thought he saw a cave opening behind one of the waterfalls, but he couldn't be too certain of that because of all the spray from the water splashing on the rocks, then the path finally took a sharp turn westwards away from the river, and he followed it as it meandered into a forested valley. On one twist of the path, he finally spotted a campfire burning gently. The tent had to be hidden well, but he could scent the Flesh Raider and the Twi'lek as his nostrils flared. He made his way to the camp site, and sat down on a flat rock to stretch his legs out momentarily.

The two came out of hiding from behind a tree, and Thravang waved at them as he beckoned them over.

The Twi'lek youngster exclaimed in relief “Jedi! You came.”

Fashk impatiently held a hand out at Thravang, and Thravang noted that the Flesh Raider had three fingers on his hands “Jedi talk – learn power!”

Viyo queried anxiously “What happened at the temple? What did the Masters say? Tell him.”

“Jedi talk! Hsst!” Now Fashk was pointing a finger.

Thravang made a calming gesture “I've done as you wished.” He handed the Flesh Raider the safe passage token. “Show that to the guards and you'll be allowed inside.”

“You hear that? You get what you wanted. Hunt-power, Jedi-power, the rock-den – all of it.” Viyo told Fashk.

Once again the Flesh Raider pointed at Thravang “Head-thing Jedi hunt. Hunter-den Jedi hunt. Hunt rock-den!”

Viyo turned to Thravang and attempted to translate more fully what Fashk had meant by his words “He... he means you can hunt everything that belonged to him. The other Flesh Raiders. Me, and he's leaving.”

Thravang thought about Fashk's wording and nodded – it now made sense to him.

“Jedi prize. Jedi hunt!” With that, Fashk left, presumably to head to the Jedi temple and test the token that Thravang had given him.

Viyo looked quite relieved “I didn't think you would do that. You... helped him. You saved me. I know my way back to the village. The path isn't too hard from here.” (As long as he avoids the Hollows, then yes, it is not particularly difficult.)

Now it was his own turn to return to the village. As he passed by Trea's home, she came out and hailed him “Jedi. You found my son. Thank you.” She made the Jedi gesture of respect with her hands clasped in front of her. She had happy tears running down her face “He told me what you did. He's safe now, and I'm glad his kidnapper is with your Masters.”

Thravang smiled but spoke soberly “I hope the Jidai Council can handle him. I suspect he'll be a … difficult student. Nonetheless, I am glad to hear that your son is doing well.” (Indubitably more difficult than I ever was.)

“That Flesh Raider won't harm us again. It's enough.” (Oh, a very pragmatic approach. I like that, and she's right. One way or another, the Jidai will see to him.) “You have my promise: Whenever the elders speak about the Jedi, I'll speak too. My son will speak. This is our thanks.” (How terrific. They will be living reminders of how the Jidai served them. However, it should not have come to this for the people to remember how the Jidai should serve. This is a massive failure on the Jidai's part. These sûdas ziodrys have ignored one of their very own tenets that they supposedly prize so much. “The Jidai live to serve.” Ha!)

Once again he smiled at her as he made a supportive hand gesture “With time, hopefully maybe the Jidai and your people can become allies.”

She agreed “Allies on Tython, and allies against the Flesh Raiders. We wish you well, Jedi. Goodbye, and all the best to you.”

 

A few minutes later, he strolled into the Matriarch's quarters to discover her daughter standing next to an empty bed with her head downcast. He immediately had the sense something wasn't right as he came up to her “I shut down the energy shield. Any word on Master Orgus' mission?”

She looked up at him with sorrow etched on her face “No. My mother... she found peace during your absence. I'm now Matriarch.”

He reached out to touch her compassionately, “You don't have to go through this alone.”

Ranna smiled very weakly “People who say Jedi have no feelings are wrong.” She paused to compose herself with a deep breath “Before he left, Master Orgus told me 'There is no death, there is the Force.' He believes our essence lives on when we die and merges with the Force. I hope that's true.”

Thravang nodded “Yes, that's what the Jidai teach. The Force is a part of us and a part of everything. Since your mother is now with the Force, she is also still a part of you. It flows through everything.” He hoped his words would comfort Ranna. He even went as far as to give her a gentle hug before he pulled back a stride's length.

Then there was an uproar outside, and he ran outside to see what the matter was. He swiftly handled the new Flesh Raider's plan of attack before the fields were lost, and returned to the new Matriarch.

After several long moments she glanced at him once more “I saw how you suffered out there. What you did was more than brave – it was heroic. Since you came here, all you've done is risk your life to save us. Why would you face death again and again for people you barely know?” (Heroic? There is nothing heroic about having crops poisoned. I simply destroyed the devices, it was nothing.)

There was a pause before he placed a hand on his chest in the manner of his people and inclined his head towards her “The Jidai Order's greatest honor is to protect and serve others.”

She murmured with lidded eyes “You serve your ideals well,” then she held out something to him “Please accept this token of affection from my people. You've earned it.” He took it and glanced at the token in his massive hand. It was a Twi'lek child's rendering of him on a large scrap of parchment. The drawing was rather child like, but yet it was rather adorable. He rolled the drawing up and tucked it away in his belt pouch. “I should go inform everyone that the danger is over, and consult with the scouts how to beef up the security of our village walls. If you would excuse me.”

He bowed and stepped away to walk outside. Just then his holocom chimed and he pulled it out of a belt pouch and turned it on. The blue flickering figure of his Master came to life “Finally put the Flesh Raider base out of commission. How are things on your end?”

“Master, I'm fine, but I spoke to your old Padawan over the holo. He's doing all this so he can destroy the Sith. Also, it was a good thing that I returned to the settlement. Flesh Raiders tried poisoning the crops and I stopped them.”

Master Orgus reacted with surprise at the news “Poison? They're getting desperate. Then he's not Sith himself. That's good. If I can get to him, reason with him...” (By the black blood of Adas, are you serious? Have you lost your mind? There is no reasoning with him! He did not heed my words, why would he heed yours?)

Blessedly oblivious to his new Padawan's thoughts, Master Orgus continued “At the Flesh Raider command base, I found coordinates to a number of secret camps – too many to send only Jedi Masters to handle. One camp is in the ruins of Upper Kaleth. That patrol you fought earlier was based there. Now is your chance to finish them off.”

Thravang did not care for the idea “Why spread our forces thin to hit all the camps at once?” (Spread too thin, and there is the risk the Flesh Raiders will slip past our defences.)

His Master answered “If we only go after a few, the Flesh Raiders could warn the rest and regroup. Be careful in those ruins. We haven't explored them all. Contact me when your mission's complete. May the Force be with you.”

Thravang gave a curt nod “May the Force be with you as well, Master.”

 

Chapter Text

 

41 Vidisija Urnishra Turinata 10 ATC

 

Thravang was now back at the Jidai Temple. Again. The Jidai really needed to expand their little network of paths so he didn't keep having to pass through the Jidai Temple grounds to access the other paths leading away in other directions. Sure, he could have made his own way through the wilderness himself, but he did not have the luxury of time. Speed was of essence, and it meant using the already known paths laid out by earlier Jidai explorers. He glanced at the westering sun as it sank towards the horizon tinting the sky in shades of red, orange and yellow. and shook his head. He was going to have to overnight at the Temple. He clicked his tongue in dismay at the notion. He had nothing against staying at the Jidai Temple, it was just that if they had laid out their paths better, he could have saved time by bypassing the Temple. He would have been fine with camping in one of the caves that dotted the cliffs on the Ridges until he had reached the upper reaches of ruined Kaleth. Then a thought occurred to him that had him clicking his tongue in disapproval. What if the Jidai had deliberately kept their paths all leading to the Temple to keep better tabs on their Padawans? (Sûdas! The Jidai can not coddle their trainees. A person had to be tempered like a real blade to test its worth. A blade not tempered is brittle and will scatter when wielded in battle.)

He tossed his satchel onto his bed in the little room he had been given, and headed down to the mess hall to grab a quick meal prepared for him, and once he had consumed the rather bland tasting food – these Jidai did not know how to season their food – and mused on what he was going to do with his free time. He had a few candlemarks until he would need to crawl between the sheeting that the Jidai favored on his bed. They were not as fine and smooth as he would have liked. Sometimes the material caught on his ridges and he hated that sensation.

He finally decided that he could always spend more time working on his velocities and forms. He needed to hone his reflexes and muscle memory. So he headed down to where the practice salle was held, and looked around. It was full of sparring Padawans. Some more trained, some others less. He needed some room for himself so he tested several training sabers on the racks until he found one to his liking. Then he went out to find a grassy spot entirely unoccupied in the Jedi Temple gardens. It would be a good practice spot, it would teach him how to move without trampling the carefully cultivated flower gardens, and it would also teach him to stay on the stone paths. It would be a good exercise in finesse and awareness of his surroundings. He wanted to be able to fight in close quarters. That was something one of his size would have issues with.

So he began his velocities with his training saber en garde. Sure, he could just have practiced with his warblade, but he had deemed it incompatible with the image he wished to reassure the Jidai with. It was one thing to use it in front of Master Iakan and Knights Callan and Brandi, but it was entirely a different matter here. The three Jidai knew him, and these Jidai at the Temple did not. First came the velocities for the Shii-cho form. He ran through them slowly and deliberately at first, then with increasing speed until his training saber was nothing but a blur in the air and a fast paced buzzing hum.

All of a sudden vivid green and golden yellow entered his view of vision, and he knew that the green and gold was not supposed to be there. He pulled the arching sweep of his saber, but not before a sizzling CLANG sounded and sparks flew off the saber blade. He promptly froze in position as he watched the heavily mangled halves of the datapad spin upwards then sideways in what seemed to be a slow graceful arc from the sheer force of the strike before they fell to the ground with a dull thud.

Warm honeyed amber eyes met his molten silver eyes in consternated shock as the tip of the training saber hovered a scant inch from his moss green nose. The blade was lowered and Thravang clicked his tongue in displeasure.

“Felahiran, oh it's you . That's what you get for having your nose buried in your datapad. You really should pay attention to where you're walking.”

“What in the Force are you doing out here drilling? This is the gardens for all to mediate in, not swing a saber about,” Felahiran returned promptly.

“The practice salle was too crowded, this was roomy. The stone paths, hedges and patches of cultivated flower gardens made nice boundaries for close quarter fighting practice.” Thravang shrugged “Besides, no one was here.” Now he gave his fellow Padawan a shake of his head “Until you came along, of course.”

“Padawans, you both need to work on your situational awareness. Felahiran, you may have been studying, but that was no excuse for a lapse in minding your surroundings. Thravang, while you may not have sliced his nose off, you need to work on your reflexes and being able to stop faster. For one of your size, it is something to be considered,” Knight Varalisse scolded them both as she bent to gather up the remains of the datapad. The black and blue clad woman handed the halves back to Felahiran “You'll have to get that replaced. It certainly will be interesting to hear of how you will explain it to the Quartermaster.”

She turned to face Thravang and arched an eyebrow “As for you, Thravang, I do believe I will work with you on pulling your strikes. The day may come that you will be called to instruct a student in combat techniques, and you must be ready for such a responsibility.”

 

**** The next day ****

 

He awoke with a pained groan as he stiffly sat up in bed and peeled the sheets off slowly with a wince. Varalisse had been hard on him, but it was only right that she was, considering what had happened to Felahiran's poor datapad. He snickered for a moment at the memory of splitting that in half then shook his head as he crawled out of bed. He sat down on the stone cold floor to mediate a few minutes and loosen his muscles. Once he felt relaxed enough and less achy, he rose to his feet and threw on his clothing. As usual, Padawan robes and trews in pale browns. He went down to the mess hall and had a bite to eat before he gathered some more rations and tossed them into his traveling satchel. As was his habit now, he went up to the library and had a good long look at the current map of Tython that the Jidai had explored so far. At one of the library tables, he had spotted Felahiran sitting with a chastened expression on his face assembling various parts littered about on the surface of the table into a new datapad. So that was how Felahiran had been disciplined for being so inattentive to his surroundings. Thravang deemed it prudent not to greet his fellow Padawan at this time and left him to his task.

Some moments later, he headed out of the Temple and back to the paths. He chose the path that led southwards out of the grounds and back to Kaleth. He would have to go through Kaleth to get to the paths beyond. Had there been another route, he would have taken it. He had enjoyed going to Kaleth for the first time, but now he had no desire to see it a second time. He had found it rather sorrowful now when he thought about how Kaleth had fallen into ruins. Perhaps in time he would come to appreciate the ruins from the view of a Lorekeeper but today was not that day. After trekking through the derelict buildings of lower Kaleth, he entered what the map called Upper Kaleth and he paused to look around. Naturally, he had to wipe out more of those annoying war droids from that long ago war in the split between the followers of the early Jidai Order. He wondered why the Je'daii had ceased to exist. Perhaps he could ask Felahiran about that, or at least get recommendations on what books to read. He broke out his sketch pad and made several more drawings based on his passage from Lower to Upper Kaleth and what he now observed.

He had just completed the final line on one sketching when he noted the presence of another Padawan in the general vicinity with his Force sense. He walked past a small one room building with half its roof and walls collapsed into the ground, and it had contained what seemed to be an ancient library archive terminal. He rounded the corner of that old building, only to find a male human Padawan standing there angry and frustrated. He scanned and found nothing but a glowing green crystal sitting in the middle of an ancient square dais. So why was that Padawan so frustrated that he could easily sense it?

“Argh, it's impossible! Why would my Master assign me a trial that can't be done?” he exclaimed out loud to no one in particular. Thravang raised an eyebrow at that and approached the young brown haired human to find out what the trial was, his curiosity had been triggered.

“What are you carrying on about?” Thravang inquired.

The Padawan stepped back a pace “Oh! You startled me. I didn't see you approach.”

Thravang clicked his tongue as he stared at the young man. (Not another Felahiran in the making, surely? Didn't the Jidai teach their Padawans to be aware of their surroundings?) Granted, he did have some issues there himself, but he was still better at sensing things faster. The Padawan recovered himself and answered “I'm Flingeld. You must be the new one that everyone's been talking about.” He pointed a finger at a boulder “My Master says there are valuable materials behind that boulder over there. But get this – the blasted thing can't be moved.”

Thravang peered at the rock in question (What valuable materials? A mere rock? Ha! Perhaps his Master meant something else, and it was misinterpreted.)

The agitated Padawan continued “My instructions were to go to a platform in the ruins. 'Meditate, and let the Force empower me.” But I've meditated 'til I can't see straight – and nothing!”

Thravang shrugged his shoulders “Maybe you should just try again. I think you're missing the point of this particular exercise.”

Flingeld burst out “You have no idea how long I've been at this! So I'm gonna get drummed out of the Order because I can't move a rock that can't be moved? It's absurd.”

Thravang desperately wanted to pinch the bridge of his nose (What is absurd is you, Flingeld. You're drumming yourself out of the Order, not because you can't move a rock, but because you're not grasping what your Master wanted you to.)

Then the young human gave him a hopeful look “Hey, what if – maybe you could help me. Are you good at this meditation thing?” (After four years I better be at least passable at meditation. Or at least, better than this ajiusona.)

Thravang gave him a questioning look “Tell me why I should help you with your training? Your Master set this trial for you alone.”

“Isn't the Jedi Order about cooperation and fellowship? Giving assistance to a fellow in need is our duty, right?” Flingeld craftily asked with a gesture of his hands and arms.

“Very well, you have me there. What do I have to do?” Thravang asked with an edge of exasperation to his tone. He did not like feeling like he was being pressed into this. At least he could tell the Jidai that there had been no refusal on his part with a clear mind.

“Oh thank you! You're a lifesaver.” (Lifesaver? I wouldn't go that far. All I did was agree to help you.) Oblivious to Thravang's train of thought, Flingeld continued “So, just kneel at the altar nearby. Supposedly, if you find deep inner peace, you'll be able to move the boulder.” He jerked at the “altar” with his thumb. It was the dais with the glowing green crystal Thravang had noticed earlier. Hardly what he would consider an altar. Clearly, the Jidai had different ideas of what constituted as an altar. The Padawan just refused to shut up “If you fail, I can tell my Master it wasn't just me who couldn't move it.” (Fail? Me? We'll just see about that.)

Thravang causally walked to the “altar” and knelt in front of the dais which the crystal sat on. He proceeded to quiet his mind, slowed his breathing and fell into a trance and meditated for a time until he had that sense of rightness and feeling that he was not unbalanced. He opened his eyes and rose to his feet once more. Carrying that sense of balance within him, he turned to face the boulder in question, stretched out a hand towards it and slowly levitated the rock until it rose a few feet into the air, just high enough to make a point, then dropped it back into the exact same spot it had sat in for countless years. The Jidai had focused his training on his physical abilities and inborn talent for combat, and had not spent much time on his mental training, so his levitation was not what it could have been. It did suffice enough for this purpose, however. Thravang made a mental note to work on his mental training in private. It would not do to neglect that aspect of the Force.

He turned back to Flingeld with a neutral facial expression and waited for the young man to say something. He did not have to wait long. “You did it! I can't decide if I'm ashamed that I couldn't do it, or happy that my mission is complete.” (Your mission, complete? It was not mine to begin with. You are mistaken.) Flingeld glanced at the boulder with a frown on his face as he put a hand on his chin “There was supposed to be something important behind the boulder!”

Thravang merely smiled “Then we should continue the search.” (By the silver crown of Adas! That ajiusona! He has completely missed the point of his trial.)

Suddenly there was a voice calling out to the two Padawans “I'm very disappointed, Flingeld.” Thravang promptly looked in the direction of the voice, and saw a Jedi Master striding up to them. The Master was some strange sort of alien clad in robes of various shades of red and a brownish green. He supposed that the robes were in the style of the alien's people. Wait, hadn't he seen holos of those aliens in one of his studies with Master Iakan? He pummeled his brain for an answer. Perhaps Ithorian?

Flingeld turned to face this Jedi Master “Master Quilljayk, why are you here?” (Such an imbecilic question to ask. Of course, he was keeping tabs on you, he is … was your Master after all.)

Thravang listened as the Ithorian Master answered “The valuable materials beyond that boulder were enlightenment and perseverance – and you failed to acquire them. You've become unbalanced by doubt and self-recrimination. By enlisting another person's aid to complete this trial, you have confirmed deep-rooted weakness.”

Thravang simply smiled to himself, it was as he had surmised. The trial for Flingeld hadn't been about the boulder itself and its supposed “treasure”. Flingeld had never been meant to move that rock, but he had been meant to keep trying until his Master had arrived. Master Quilljayk continued “I'm afraid your training must come to an end. You will not become a Jedi.”

“But Master, it's not my fault! I didn't ask for help. I-I tried to decline!” Now that earned a glowering glare from Thravang. That cretin was trying to lie to his own Master about his own failure. Granted, he had lied to two Masters about Moracen and Spanios, but that was entirely for a different reason.

Thravang instantly objected “That is simply not true, Master Quilljayk.”

“I sense the calm in you, young one. It speaks to your veracity,” the Jedi Master told Thravang, then turned back to the now failed Padawan “I know how important becoming a Jedi was to you and your family, Flingeld. Unfortunately, I have no choice. You will be stationed in the archives here and serve the Order in a clerical capacity. It is decided.”

That rather unilateral decision gave Thravang fodder for thought. He had thought that there was a special branch of the Jedi Order that decided where failed Padawans would be placed. It seemed that the Master of a failed student had the power to decide the placement. Angrily, Flingeld turned back to Thravang and accused “You – it's all your fault. You ruined my chances!” Thravang could only exchange a glance with the Master at those words before the Tsis could only lift a shoulder in a shrug. Perhaps in time, Flingeld would come to understand why he had failed.

The Ithorian Master said “Flingeld was never expected to move that boulder. Communing with the Force is something only a Master typically has the clarity to achieve. It was quite an accomplishment and highly unexpected of you to move that stone.” (So it is as I had surmised. His trial was not moving that stone. He was to learn from the attempt. Yet he says only a Master can move that stone. I am no Master yet I moved that stone. Perhaps the Jidai are also missing clarity in balance.)

Thravang nodded in understanding “So you were testing his determination and resolve.”

The Master smiled at Thravang's comprehension of the matter “Yes, and his inner fortitude proved inflexible, so he crumbled. Flingeld's task was to learn to persevere despite futility. When one's self image depends on success, shortcuts are taken.”

There was a pause before the Master continued “It's imperative that we screen out Padawans unable to assume the great responsibility of the Jedi. You've done the Order an important service, Thravang.”

Thravang shook his head “I did nothing noteworthy. Just what was called for.”

That earned him another smile from the Ithorian Master “Humility is the benchmark of the Jedi.” At that, Thravang managed to refrain from making a face. It had taken him four hard years to learn humility. Or at least a measure of humility. He would always have his pride in his heritage and his bloodlines, but at least he was no longer overweening.

The Ithorian Master turned back to Flingeld “You may now return to the temple when you are ready, Flingeld.”

Flingeld said bitterly “Yes. Yes, Master.” He shot Thravang a final look full of malcontent before he departed.

Master Quilljayk dismissed Thravang politely “You have our thanks. Now may the Force be with you.”

Thravang gave a short incline of his head and looked at the dais for a moment before he pulled out his sketch pad and drew that platform with the crystal on it, then stowed it back in his satchel before he found a path that led into a tunnel. He entered the cave only to find that it was exactly what he sought in one of the side passages – the entrance to the Flesh Raider stronghold he had been sent to raid by Master Orgus. Only a few steps into the cave ruins, and he found a Jedi Knight in a crumbled heap on the stone floor. The Knight looked like his ancestor had been a fish in the distant past. Once again, his mind came up with a possible identification of the species after a few minutes of rummaging – the Knight was likely a Selkath. What was a Selkath doing on Tython? Tython was primarily a land based planet.

He was greeted with “Padawan, turn back. Leave this place – leave me. I am dying,” as the Knight struggled to his feet. “I am Knight Laotah. There are Flesh Raiders in this ruin. More powerful than we've seen.”

Thravang's mind absentmindedly noticed that the Selkath had three fingered hands as he answered “Master Orgus sent me to drive back the Flesh Raiders.”

The Knight protested weakly “No. These Flesh Raiders control the Force. Surveillance monitors picked up Flesh Raiders entering this ruin. Came to investigate. Shouldn't have come alone.”

Just then the Knight started collapsing to the ground, no longer able to stand, and Thravang moved to lend him support. Laotah held up a hand to stop him “This place is strong in the dark side. Flesh Raiders channel their hatred here and feed on the darkness. They grow powerful.”

Thravang rubbed his right cheek tendril only a moment before he responded “I have to stop them. Powerful or not, there's no one else coming. There's not enough of us for reinforcements.”

The Knight managed to get out “Turn back. The enemy's too strong. They have my lightsaber...” (Only because you underestimated them, you ajiusona.) Nevertheless, Thravang knelt next to Laotah, a comforting hand on the Knight's shoulder, until the Knight drew his final breath and turned over onto his back in death as he became one with the Force. Only then did he rise to resume his task assigned to him by Master Orgus Din.

With the warning that the Flesh Raiders had Laotah's lightsaber, Thravang headed deeper into the cave complex until he came to a large cavern that had Jedi ruins in the center. It looked like it may have had pillars and a roof at some point, now gone, but the foundation and the steps remained. And of course the Flesh Raiders. He proceeded to clear out the entire cavern of them, and he finally found the Flesh Raider adept that carried Laotah's lightsaber in a little side cave that had old walls on three sides and a little stair leading up to it. He retrieved the broken hilt from the corpse and tucked it within the satchel. He would give the lightsaber to Master Orgus, he would know what to do with it. He guessed that it would probably go back to the Quartermaster for safe keeping since Laotah had no longer need of it. The cavern was now littered with corpses from the fighting, and his holocom beeped. He clicked the answer button with a clawed finger. It was his Master calling to check in on him.

“The Flesh Raider camp's out of commission, Master – but they were all Force users. They killed a Knight named Laotah. His body is in these ruins. What should I do?” Thravang asked as he stared downwards at the holocom in his hands.

Master Orgus replied “We'll reclaim our fallen later. Just got a distress call from the Twi'lek settlement. They spotted Bengel Morr!” He made a gesture “Our forces are spread out dealing with the secret camps. We're the only ones who can handle this. I'm on my way to the village. Meet me there!”

Thravang put the holocom away and frowned. Something didn't quite smell right about this, but he couldn't put a claw on it. Why would Bengel Morr come to the village in person? Until now, he had been content with simply sending the Flesh Raiders to raid the village and wear the defenders down. So why would he want to change tactics now? Thravang supposed he would have to find out in two days from now.

 

38 Kitija Hatashra Turinata 10 ATC

 

He walked into the Matriarch's building still with that niggling sense of wrongness bothering him. He saw the droid there, and Ranna next to the droid, but no sign of his Master. His Master had not been as far away as he had been, and should have arrived a few hours prior at the very least. He paused just long enough to quickly glance around before he approached the Matriarch and asked warily “Master Orgus responded to your distress call. I was to meet him here. What has happened?”

The new Matriarch answered without turning to look at him “Nothing. We didn't send any distress call. Things have been quiet since you left.”

Then she finally turned around with a look of concern on her face “I haven't seen or spoken to Master Orgus.” That sense of wrongness grew.

He was certain he was being lied to. T7 piped up then “T7 = scanning area // Stand by....” A few moments passed then T7 looked at Thravang “Confirmed // Master Orgus = not in settlement + not answering holocom.”

Not answering his holocom? That meant Master Orgus was in trouble of some sort. Only trouble was, the Matriarch was not being truthful, but exactly what was she covering up? Master Orgus was not dead, or he would have known as his Padawan. There would have been a ripple on the Force, and there had been none.

He dearly wished he could pull his warblade, but knew that it was not the Jidai way. Not on Tython. It would be seen as too aggressive a move since his life was not directly threatened. His hackles did start rising as he glowered “Master Orgus should've gotten here ahead of me.”

The droid offered “T7 = contact Jedi Temple?”

Ranna tried to assuage his mounting suspicions “I'm sure it's a misunderstanding. Your Master will turn up.” Then her facial expression altered “Why don't you stay a while? You must be exhausted.”

His hackles finished their rise, and he felt his inner senses shrill an alarm but it was too late. He felt himself sink to the floor and his consciousness fade into blackness. He had been knocked out by something. It had to be very powerful to affect a Jidai. He fought the blackness just long enough to hear the droid be rendered useless by an ion bullet from an assault rifle. Treachery! Then the blackness took him.

He slowly started coming to, but groggily. He used the Force and his training to help clear his mind more quickly. He felt his back on a surface of some sort, but it didn't feel like the floor. No, it felt like more he was on top of a bed. Then he heard Ranna's voice saying “Stop it! What are you doing?” He had the sense it was not directed at him. He let his face turn left and saw four blurry figures. One blurry blue, one blurry yellowish, one blurry red, and one blurry greenish. The blurry green had her back to the bed in front of him. As if she was defending him. That had to be Ranna. She continued quite sharply “I told you to leave him alone! That was the pact!”

What pact? he fuzzily thought, then his mind cleared enough for him to be able to function. The figures came into focus. As he thought, Ranna was the blurry green figure defending him. The yellowish one told Ranna “Bengel Morr refused your terms. This is to save our people!” Ah that had to be Scout Chief Moorint. He remembered the Twi'lek now. He sat up and Ranna turned to face him.

His expression turned stormy as he pointed a finger at the group of Twi'leks in barely restrained anger “What did you do to my Master? Where's Bengel Morr?”

It was Scout Chief Moorint who answered “Bengel Morr came to me. Said he'd end the Flesh Raiders attacks if we gave him your Master.”

So that distress call had been a lure to serve as a trap for both his Master and himself. It left a very sour taste in his mouth after all what he had done for the villagers, and this was how he was repaid. He started glowering again but did not yet reach for his warblade. They were still talking which did not constitute as a threat to attack. He wondered how long he had been out. A few hours, maybe. It couldn't have been a full day because his Jidai training would have neutralized the tranquilizer before too long.

Ranna told him “He asked us to kill you, too – but I said 'no.' I told him we'd keep you here. You'd be safe, and my people would have a protector.” She sounded remorseful about what she had done, and he did understand to a degree, considering how long the Jidai ajiusona had ignored them.

Scout Chief Moorint spoke up then “If we don't do what we're told, Bengel Morr will kill us all.” So the two were at odds with each other. Clearly, Ranna was too new to her office as Matriarch for her people to have faith in her. He did feel rather sorry for her in that regard. He countered with “Bengel Morr is a monster. When he's done using you, he'll kill everyone.”

“Don't resist. It'll only make things harder,” Scout Chief Moorint warned him.

At that, Thravang did pull his warblade out of its scabbard. He had correctly interpreted the words as a threat.

A short while later, Thravang stared at the now former Scout Chief and his two allies. All three laid dead on the floor, slain by him. He glanced up as Ranna lamented “Why didn't they listen to me?” Her eyes were closed and tears slowly coursing down her cheeks. He wiped the warblade clean and sheathed the weapon. “It wasn't supposed to be like this. I was going to save you – save us all.”

He could only muster so much sympathy for Ranna. His Master was still in danger so that was what he focused his thoughts on “Bengel Morr wants to destroy the Jidai Order, and you handed him my Master,” he told her in a hard voice.

She held up a hand to him “There's still time to save them. Bengel Morr took Orgus to someone called the Forge. Reactivate your droid – it may know where to find them.” She paused for a heartbeat then asked “You can forgive me, can't you?”

He paused to consider for a few moments then nodded “Yes. I don't condone what you have done, but I understand. You did what you thought necessary to save your people.” (Damn those Jidai. Had they supported the village when they should have, none of those things would have happened now. She would not have had cause to feel so desperate that she was willing to do this.)

Ranna looked sad but yet grateful at the same time “Thank you. I am so sorry. Tell me what I can do to make this right.”

He answered simply “Learn from this mistake. Spend your life atoning for what you've done. Then I would be satisfied.”

“I won't waste this chance. That's a promise.” Ranna told him earnestly. “I should tell my people what has happened. We will bury and mourn our dead.” Now she looked sorrowful again. It wasn't his fault that they had dead to bury and mourn now. He had tried talking them out of their course of action and that had failed. She finished speaking with “I hope you find your Master...”

He murmured “Thank you, I hope so. May the Force be with you.”

He now turned his attention to the droid off to one side. He knelt on the floor and fiddled with the droid for a few minutes before he was able to reactivate T7. T7 sounded puzzled “T7 = power failure? // Memory logs = missing time.”

“I'll explain later, T7. This is more important since this is time critical. Bengel Morr took my Master someplace called the Forge. Do you know where that is?”

T7 was not so quick to let the matter go “Twi'lek life-forms = deceased // Jedi = explain?” Of course, the droid's scanners would have shown him the dead bodies. Thravang nearly swore but refrained just in time as he compressed his lips tight for a few moments. He was wasting precious time.

Thravang decided to do a very concise summary in hopes the droid would drop the matter “These Twi'lek deactivated you and tried to kill me. I had to defend us.”

T7 replied “Jedi = saved T7 from memory wipe // T7 = grateful.” It hadn't occurred to Thravang what would have happened to the droid until just now when it was pointed out to him. The droid continued “Jedi Archive Droid A-4PO = detailed data on Forge. Jedi = contact A-4PO via holo // A-4PO = transmit Forge data to T7.”

What a roundabout way to get the data necessary, but there was no time to spare to quibble over the details. Thravang promptly called the Jedi Archives on his holocom, and the droid answered “I am A-4PO, Jedi archivist. How may I help you?” Thravang did not have to figure out what the droid meant. By the crimson sands, T7 was difficult to understand at times, since the droid spoke in binary. Or rather to be more accurate, beeped in binary. He was going to ask the Order for a special translator when they decided it was time to make him a Knight. Languages were not his forte, and he didn't wish to make mistakes in the course of his duties that could have been easily avoided if he had understood what was conveyed to him. Hopefully the Order would see it as a reasonable request, considering his background. He answered the droid's inquiry “Transmit everything you know about the Forge to my droid Teeseven.” He had decided to call T7 that, it was more natural sounding than just a letter and number.

The droid responded “That area is considered highly dangerous. May I inquire why you need this data?”

Thravang decided to tell the droid the bare truth “Flesh Raiders captured Master Orgus and took him there.”

Now the droid expressed surprise and concern “By the stars! What perfectly awful timing. The temple Masters are all indisposed fighting Flesh Raiders. I will alert them immediately, but they may be unable to assist you. Transmitting data now....” He was simply thankful that the droid hadn't said something like requiring permission from the Council or some nonsense. Then the holocom flickered out, then Thravang put it away in one of his belt pouches.

Now Teeseven piped up “T7 + Jedi = go to Forge + save Master Orgus!” Thravang nodded “We'll have to hurry as best as we can. They've got a head start.”

He looked at the data that the archivist droid had transmitted to Teeseven and saw that there was a hidden passage in the ruins of Upper Kaleth going through a cave complex. That cave complex wasn't the same one that the Flesh Raiders had used as their base. He sighed. Another two days wasted trudging back there. He supposed he could cut the time shorter, but he would be tired and in unfamiliar territory, and he figured that maybe Bengel Morr would take the time to gloat over his “prize” first.

 

41 Eiaja Hatashra Turinata 10 ATC

 

He just had passed through the cave complex that the archival data map had shown him, and he paused to gaze around him. He had to climb a steep path near a waterfall to even get into the cave complex, and the path had been hidden well between trees – it had been nothing but a faint trace of dirt among the tall grasses. The main passage through the series of caves had been long enough that he no longer could hear that waterfall roaring over the drop. As he surveyed his new surroundings, he noticed that the ruins in this area were considerably more complete than Kaleth. There were far fewer gaps in the walls, and there were even sections of walls intact and whole. The flights of stairs leading to the upper level were still in one piece, even if the support pillars looked rather time worn with heavily chipped rock. There was even a mostly intact stone pavilion, even though some of the supports had crumbled to the ground. There was also a passage through an archway leading into an underground chamber, but he had the sense that it was not what he sought – the Forge. It would not make sense to have a forge underground, there would be issues with proper ventilation. His gaze alighted on a thick stout base that supported what looked like a female robed Jedi in a kneeling position holding a lightsaber up. Or it could have been an ancient sword. Lightsabers, as ubiquitous as they were, were still a more recent technology compared to swords. And he knew from the Lorekeepers that the Je'daii had not always wielded lightsabers. They had only the beginnings of one, which the Tsis had improved on and adapted to their own uses. Appropriate crystals were still hard to come by, though.

He paused just long enough to sketch a rough outline of that statue before he continued through the large stone arch supported by walls on either side. It led the way into a narrow valley between cliffs that rose steeply from the ground on the sides. He would finish the drawing from memory later. He had his Master to find and rescue first. After trekking through the valley carved out by some long ago vanished river, he discovered a cave at the end of the dale. Hoping that the cave wasn't full of yet more Flesh Raiders, he entered. He was swiftly disappointed in his hopes. The cave was full of Flesh Raider feral adepts. Lovely, more Force users to combat and slay. He supposed he should have to get used to the killing part. He had the sense he was going to do a lot of that as a Knight.

Thravang blinked his silver eyes as he emerged back into the sun on the other side of the long winding cave passage. He stood a moment to let his eyes adjust and gazed about him. He was now high in the mountains, with a narrow strip of verdant grass in front of him that beckoned him on further as it led to the slope of a steep hill. On both sides of him, the land fell away into steep cliffs that dropped into deep foggy gorges with flowing water at the bottom. Mountainous trees that towered above him sat here and there – they had sharp prickly leaves that were a dark green. Well the way beyond him was rather clear, there was only one way to go, so he slowly walked that narrow strip of land that connected the cave to the hill. As he approached the hill as the narrow path broadened into a wide meadow at the bottom of some broken winding stairs that led into yet another cave, he spotted several figures. Two Flesh Raiders by the look of them, and a …. Bengel Morr! The Nautolan had to be him. He glimpsed his Master lying on the ground at the Nautolan's feet. He knew that his Master was still alive. Just a question of what shape he was in now.

As Thravang strode up to the waiting figures, now turned to face him, he took a swift glance at the stairs. Broken the stairs were, indeed, but still traversable, but first, the problem of Bengel Morr and his bodyguards to deal with. He drew near the blue skinned Nautolan and saw that his Master was face down on the ground. He couldn't see any immediate wounds, but that did not mean that Orgus Din wasn't hurt.

“I sensed you coming. Your fear betrayed you,” the Nautolan said before he turned to face the young Tsis.

Thravang returned with “Fear for my Master, not for myself.”

“You're weak, like my old Master. You will fall. With him.” Thravang raised an eyebrow at that. He would just have to see about that as he smiled humorlessly at the attempt to undermine his confidence. He now saw that Bengel Morr wore some version of Jidai battle armor that had seen much wear overlaid with simple brown robes. Quite a bit of irony, that. Someone wanting to do away with the Order was dressed like one of the Order.

Since the Nautolan was willing to talk, and his Master wasn't in immediate danger of being slain, Thravang decided to ask one thing while he had the opportunity “What happened to you on Coruscant? Why have you turned against the Jidai?”

“Not the Jedi – the sick, spineless cowards that have taken their place. The traitors who let the Sith slaughter millions. You weren't on Coruscant. You never saw our greatest cut down or watched the temple burn. I escaped that destruction to see my own Master surrender to the Sith. They exterminated us, and he gave up.” (Spineless, perhaps, but cowardly? Not quite. Many gave their lives in the sacking of Coruscant. However, it does not excuse the fact they were caught off guard.)

Thravang clicked his tongue, he knew that his Master had hidden in the lower levels of Coruscant to protect the civilians hiding there along with some Republic military forces. Imperial war droids had been a problem in the lower levels. No, Master Orgus Din definitely had not surrendered to the Sith. He even had dueled with Lord Angral and nearly paid for it with his life. His Master had tried to defend the Jidai Temple, and when that failed, he had gone into hiding. Sometimes discretion was the better part of valor. Something that Bengel Morr hadn't learned, apparently. They had talked about that in their first meeting in Master Orgus' quarters. Thravang had learnt far more about his Master than just the answer to that first question he had asked.

However, there was no point in telling Bengel Morr any of that. Bengel had quite made his mind up on what he would believe. He would not believe Thravang, and the young Tsis well knew it but he did have one piece of his mind to give “You're wrong about Master Orgus. He's training me to become a Jedi Knight.”

“Weapons are only as strong as those who created them,” Bengel Morr answered. The Nautolan did have a point, but he still was wrong “The weak will be sacrificed here to make the Forge stronger.” (The ajiusona! Just how did he think sacrifices were going to make an nonentity stronger? The Forge is merely a machine. It does not draw on the Force by itself.) Thravang knew that as naturally as drawing air to breathe. It was up to the Jidai to invoke the Force while creating a weapon, not the Forge. There had been nothing in the tales spun by the Lorekeeper about Vur Tepe that indicated the Forge to be an extension of the Force. He did not have the time to feel awe at the thought of being so near Vur Tepe as Bengel Morr turned his attention back to the unconscious Master on the ground with drawn lightsaber. Thravang could not help but note that the crystal color of Bengel's lightsaber was a yellow in color. He pulled his own warblade and stood in a combat ready stance, with his blade pointing at Bengel Morr. In the meantime, the two bodyguards had simply stood and observed the conversation, but Thravang knew that they would not be idle much longer.

Bengel Morr wasn't finished speaking “The Jedi Order must be reborn from ashes.... I'm certain of it. I found my purpose, at last.” Then the Nautolan spun around and charged at Thravang with his lightsaber, along with the two Flesh Raider bodyguards. It was now a three against one battle, and the odds were not in Thravang's favor, but not for nothing had Thravang spent so much time training himself in combat techniques. After a very intense exchange of blows, strikes, parries and counters, Bengel Morr knelt down, wounded, with the two Flesh Raiders slain. Thravang had surprised them with his ability to imbue his warblade with the Force. It was something every young Tsis learned at an early age, when they forged their own warblade, as part of their combat training. Thravang had forged his just before he had left his homeworld on that fated trip to Aeten II.

He stepped over to the harshly breathing Dark Jidai, as Master Orgus had called his former apprentice, and crossed his arms. The Nautolan looked up at Thravang as he clutched an arm across his abdomen “You've won – why has the Force guided me to this defeat? You're stronger than any Jedi I've known. You could redeem the Order and destroy the Sith.” A moment passed as Bengel Morr struggled to stand up “I understand. You are the weapon I came to forge.” Thravang simply stared at him in silence with his dark maroon nostrils flaring in the sharp breeze that flowed across the mountain meadow for what seemed to be an eternity.

Then Thravang finally responded “Believe in destiny if you will, Bengel, but you are wounded in mind and spirit, and you need help.”

Bengel protested wanly “Don't deny the truth. Think – how else could you have beaten me? I have spent a lifetime learning the paths to power. That knowledge is now yours. Let me leave Tython and prepare the galaxy for your ascendance. I will deliver the gifts you need to claim your destiny.” (Ajiusona! He means to tempt me. My ascendance? Oh, I will ascend in due time, but not in the manner he thinks. I need not those gifts he speaks of, and this knowledge he speaks of? I prefer to seek my own path in the Force. Only if he knew what I know, then he would weep and beg. He speaks of so much, while in truth he knows nearly nothing.)

It was clear to him that Bengel awaited an answer from him, and what was his answer?

A hard left hook to the Nautolan's face that knocked him out, right after he had said “You'll get the help you need, Bengel – but you can't leave here.” Bengel had started reaching for his lightsaber, but he had been too slow to dodge Thravang. The powerfully built Tsis had simply seized Bengel's left shoulder with his right hand while he delivered the blow with his left hand clenched into a fist. He watched impassively as the Nautolan simply dropped to land with his face down in the grass, then he removed Bengel's lightsaber and tucked that away in his satchel for the time being until he could turn that in.

Just then, the other figure still alive started stirring. Master Orgus let out a groan as he came to, and slowly gathered himself so he could rise to stand up “Padawan... I must have you to thank for being alive.”

Thravang simply nodded and pointed a clawed finger at Bengel “I captured Bengel Morr, Master. He's resting quietly.” His tone was quite dry.

The Jidai Master approved “You've done a great thing. He deserves a second chance. The horrors he witnessed on Coruscant broke him, and destroyed the gentle Padawan I trained.” Master Orgus looked quite dejected.

Thravang managed to keep his mouth shut on what he wanted to say. He would have pointed out that perhaps Bengel Morr had been too gentle to be trained and honed as a weapon for the Order. If the Order had not grasped that, then it was their fault for what Bengel had become.

Then Master Orgus' facial expression changed to that of amazement “You, however, faced a challenge beyond any trial I could assign. There's nothing more I can teach you.”

At that moment, while Thravang digested the fact his training had suddenly just came to a screeching halt, the droid at his side piped up “Jedi = big victory // T7 = congratulates Jedi.”

Master Orgus then told him as he gestured “All that's left is for you to enter the Forge and construct your own lightsaber.”

Thravang realized that it was now his final trial. To construct his own lightsaber. The final step before becoming a Jidai Knight. It was all but a mere formality now. He felt that there was still too much for him to learn, but Master Orgus himself had said he couldn't teach the Tsis any further. He knew that Master Orgus was a man of action and not words, perhaps Master Orgus felt that he would be best completing his own training on his own through the missions that he surely would be assigned.

Finally he murmured “I'm tremendously honored, Master Orgus.” He really didn't know what else to say at this moment.

Apparently Master Orgus was satisfied with that, for the Master continued “There's no substitute for the weapon you create yourself.” Thravang turned his head to gaze upwards at the cave carved into the rock face “Normally, we make Padawans gather materials themselves – but you've proven enough.” (Oh, so I'm spared the trouble just because I happened to win a fight with an opponent armed with a lightsaber? Someone who had far more Jidai training than I do? What if I had wanted to gather the materials myself? It would have been greater satisfaction to do so.) Then the Master handled him a rather full belt pouch “These are all the physical components – the rest will come from your mastery of the Force.”

Teeseven beeped “T7 = stay with Jedi + keep guard.”

Orgus glanced at the unconscious Nautolan “I'll carry Bengel back to the Jedi Temple, and get him help. Meet me there when you're ready.” With that have being spoken, Master Orgus bid him farewell for the time being with a bow of his head.

Thravang nodded as he dug the lightsaber out of his satchel and handled it over to the Jidai Master with the comment to Orgus “This was Bengel's. I took the saber as a safeguard, you can have it now.” With that, Thravang shifted his attention to the matter at hand. He turned to face the stairs leading up to the Forge cave, and behind him, he heard the sounds of an object being clipped to a belt hoop, then a body being gathered up, then the footsteps of a burdened person fading down the narrow path.

When all was quiet once more, Thravang climbed the aged stairs with great care, for the stairs were broken in several different sections with the rock having crumbled to the ground below thousands of years prior. He edged around those gaping sections, and his footing was more sure and swift on the stairs that still remained solid until he reached the landing. There, he paused to take in the cave with his eyes what the Jidai called the Forge. Clearly, this machine was only a small part of Vur Tepe, but it was what the Jidai had been able to find and map access to. Presumably they hadn't been able to explore this region yet in hopes of getting to the main Temple complex of Vur Tepe with the forges contained within the volcano crater. Was the volcano even still active after all those thousands of years? Hastily he sketched drawings of the narrow path, the meadow, the ruined stairs, and the Forge cave. He also drew the Forge itself. He would be the first of his people to have personally created a weapon at what remained of Vur Tepe. He would have quite a tale to pass onto the Lorekeepers when he returned home. He knew from the archival data that there had been a landslide at some point, and it had taken a small team of Jidai explorers ten months to discover this small section of Vur Tepe and open it up for access.

He stepped up to the forge and surveyed it. There was no visible interface anywhere on the machine, and he saw a holding trough for molten metal running down the middle of the forge. He shook his head as he peered at the various parts that made up the forge. Didn't the Je'daii ever think to actually label their own machines? Of course, then it was common knowledge. Now? Entirely a different matter. He sighed in exasperation as he came to the conclusion that the Forge must have been operated by usage of the Force. He was going to have to rely on the Force for the entirety of this, but that was the point of this trial, wasn't it? He reverently touched the main table of the forge and ran his hand over the surface slowly several times, then glanced up at the hanging green crystal light before he returned his attention to the new lightsaber that he would “forge” here. He pulled out the components from the pouch he had been given by Master Orgus and laid them out on the table carefully. First came the diatium power cell that would power the lightsaber and was long lasting before it needed to be recharged or replaced. Then he placed the two halves of the hilt next to the power cell. Third to be laid down was the blade emitter and its shroud. A focusing crystal and a blue adegan crystal to serve as the primary were also placed. More items followed – focusing lens, energizers, power insulator, power switch, blade power adjustment knob, discharge energy cell, crystal mount, and blade length adjustment knob.

Thravang gave the table a final caress before he stepped backwards two paces and knelt on the smooth stone floor. His silver eyes glittered as he spoke “This weapon will be a light in the days to come...” Then they slid shut as he entered a meditative trance and called the Force to him to serve as his guide in the process of assembling his lightsaber. It felt to him the same as when he had forged his warblade, yet it was not the same. Different weapon, different components. There would be no shaping of red hot metal. There would be no incantations. There would be no etching of runes on the warblade. Yet all of it was done through will and the Force.

The crystals lifted into the air and hung while the power insulator and the energy cells were inserted into the two halves of the hilt joined together. The crystal mount followed, then the crystals fitted into the crystal mount and chamber. The focusing lens and energizers went in, then the blade emitter and its accompanying shroud. The adjustment knobs and power switch were last to be attached to the lightsaber hilt. He used the Force to connect and meld the parts into a working whole. The finished lightsaber hung in the air as he awoke from his trace and rose to his feet. He stepped forward and plucked his new weapon out of the air. He thumbed the saber on, and the blade hissed to life. He lifted the blade into the air as he pointed it skyward. There was one final step to be taken, and that was to attune the lightsaber to himself. Had there been time to spare, he would have been taken to Ilum to choose a crystal for himself from the cave complex that the Order watched over. As it was, the crystal did not resonate to him true, but it was not out of tune either. He could work with the crystal he had been given for the time being until he could remedy that situation.

He called the Force to him one final time and attuned the lightsaber to himself as the plasma blade flashed once in the sunlight pouring into the Forge cave with this simple incantation he recited:

 

The kinima'jasin is the heart of the blade.

The heart is the kinima'jasin of the Warden.

The Warden is the kinima'jasin of the Force.

The Force is the blade of the heart.

All are intertwined.

The kinima'jasin, the blade, the Warden.

We are one.

 

Granted, it was not precisely a Jidai ritual, but it would serve well for this purpose. It was a ritual a Tsis would perform while forging one's own warblade. As things went, it was pretty harmless and served only to attune the weapon to the one who would wield it. Besides, he was alone, there was no other Jidai present. What they did not know would not harm them. He rather doubted that the droid present at his side would tattle on him. He coolly turned to study the creature that had taken its time climbing up to the meadow from the depths of the canyon. The Force had alerted him, but he had known that he had time enough to finish. For a creature, it was on the ugly side with green and yellow scaling, spines running down its back, sharp clawed fingers and toes, and red dotting here and there. Its shoulders had some sort of dark green furring, and its eyes were small, yellow and glowed. Its teeth were few and quite pointed. The creature hurled a boulder taken from the staircase rubble at him which he easily dodged. Perhaps it was some guardian of some sort, and it hadn't recognized him. He wondered if the Je'daii had creatures that guarded the Forge, or of it was an self-anointed task the creature had undertaken as part of its territory. Well no matter, he would have to kill it to be able to return to the Jidai Temple. He Force leapt down to the ground, bypassing the stairs entirely, with his new lightsaber in hand and ready for combat.

 

44 Kitija Erinahra Turinata 10 ATC

 

As he arrived at the Temple grounds once more, he was hailed by the Jidai Master in charge of training droids “All right, this is it. You've been tearing through these droids about as fast as I can repair them.”

Thravang smirked mentally at that comment. He was combat trained, after all.

“But we just received the latest combat simulation data from the Republic and combined it with the data we've collected from your earlier fights,” Master Dentiri continued “It'll be tough, but if you can do this, there'll be nothing more we can throw at you. You'll be fully qualified to lead Republic troops in battle.” (I thought that all Jedi were trained to lead troops into battle. I suppose not, and this is their means of weeding out the ones best served by remaining behind the lines.)

A short while later, he returned to the Master after defeating the droids programmed to disable him. He would not have been slain in the simulation, it was not the Jidai way. The Master only could shake his head in disbelief “Unbelievable! To tell the truth, I did not think it was possible with you being only a Padawan. I think you've more than qualified for the position of leading Republic soldiers into battle.”

Master Dentiri handed him a data stick “Here's your certification. Congratulations. Amazing!” Presumably on the data stick there were also his training data and scores from said sessions. Why would Master Dentiri be amazed that he had earned the certification? He had passed his Padawan trials. It should be common knowledge by now that he had been set his final trial at the Forge, since Master Orgus should have returned. It was something to muse about as he entered the Jidai Temple.

He paused as he stood before the ramps in the great hall. Did he report to the High Council now, or did he have time to attend to other things? Then he thought about what Master Orgus had told him at the Forge. No, he would be expected as soon as word got around that he had returned. Best report and get that squared away. He took the ramp up to the second floor and crossed the landing to stand in front of the great doors that led into the Council chambers. He pushed them open and walked down the hallway. Sure enough, there were people present and clearly having a conversation.

“The Flesh Raiders are still a threat, but without Bengel's leadership, they'll be scattered and ill-equipped.” That was Master Orgus speaking.

“This temple could've been devastated. The entire Order is in your debt, Padawan,” the Grandmaster turned to address him as he came up to the table. He noted three empty chairs; two more chairs had blue flickering figures sitting in them, and only two chairs were actually occupied.

Thravang simply answered “Our defences need to be tightened, with all due respect, Grandmaster. The enemy found weaknesses in our security. We have to guard against another Coruscant.” (How had Bengel Morr gotten to Tython without the Order knowing? It was a serious lapse that needed to be addressed.)

“Agreed – and now we have concerns beyond the Flesh Raiders,” Master Satele told him then her facial expression narrowed as she raised an arm upwards “Recent developments in the Twi'lek settlement demand a response.”

Master Orgus spoke then “Their Matriarch betrayed me to Bengel, but she surrendered herself to us for judgment. Your doing, I understand. Good work.” (What, no mention of me killing three Twi'leks in the process? They must have deemed it necessary, or Ranna saw it fit not to inform them. I wonder which.)

The Grandmaster looked squarely at Thravang “You know the Twi'leks, Padawan. How do you recommend we proceed?” Now he was astonished. The Council was asking him for advice on how to deal with the villagers, precisely because he had spent the most time among them. He also felt flattered, but now was not the time to show that.

He took a few moments to gather his thoughts on how he was going to answer that question. He did not wish to speak too hastily. He addressed the Grandmaster “We created instability by refusing to help them. That has to change.”

She did not look too pleased by his words “What happened to Master Orgus is almost unforgivable.”

Master Orgus surprised Thravang by agreeing with his words “But if we do forgive – and work with them – it can only improve both our communities.” He lifted a hand to gesture at the young Tsis “This young Jedi captured a fallen member of our Order and saved this temple from destruction.” Then he looked at Thravang “I see no reason why he should remain a Padawan.”

Master Satele had to agree “Your bravery, heroism and sacrifice show great depth of character. You represent our best hopes for the future.” (Bravery? Do their Padawans run screaming like kamija? What did I sacrifice? Nothing. My innocence? It wasn't there to begin with. And I'm hardly what I would call a hero. I only did what I had to do, nothing more.)

The Grandmaster was not finished speaking as she stood up from her chair “You arrived on a Tython a Padawan, but you leave a Knight of the Republic.” (What no Trials of Knighthood to be administered? No Trial of Skill? No Trial of Courage, no Trial of the Flesh? No Trial of the Spirit? No Trial of Insight?) Then he recalled a discussion of the Trials with Master Iakan – the Master had told him that sometimes the Council bypassed the actual Trials if they had deemed the Padawan in question to have passed them on the field. Perhaps this was the case now, but Thravang was still left with a sense of disappointment. He still would have liked to have actually experienced the Trials for himself. She made a gesture for him to kneel, so he did with head bowed.

“We are all Jedi. The Force speaks through us. Through our actions, the Force proclaims itself and what is real. Today we are here to acknowledge what the Force has proclaimed.” She touched his shoulders with her lightsaber lightly.

“By the right of the Council, by the will of the Force, Thravang Rath, Knight of the Republic, you may rise.”

The young Tsis, now a Jedi Knight, rose to his feet and bowed before the Council “I promise to uphold the standards of the Order and Galactic Republic to the best of my abilities.” The Council seemed satisfied with his phrasing, for nothing was said.

“T7 = request permanent assignment to assist Jedi // T8 + Jedi = unstoppable.”

The newly promoted Jedi Knight chuckled “This little droid and I have been through a lot. We're a great team.”

After a moment of reflection, Master Satele agreed “Then I see no reason why you shouldn't stay together.” She would have said more, but there was a low chime on the Council holofrequency just then.

Master Orgus checked and said “We're getting a priority signal from Coruscant. It's Master Kiwiiks....” He pressed the button to answer the call.

A blue figure flared to life on the holographic projector. The Togrutan Master said “Our suspicions about Coruscant were correct. The dark presence we have long sensed is strongest here.”

Thravang murmured “Then it wasn't Bengel Morr. What could be worse than a fallen Jedi attacking us?”

The Togruta agreed “That's what we need to find out. The security of the entire Republic is at stake.”

The Grandmaster immediately stated “This situation calls for our very best. Master Orgus, you and your former pupil should join Master Kiwiiks on Coruscant.”

Just like that, Thravang had been given his first assignment as a Jedi Knight. Not even one candlemark, and he would not even have the luxury of savoring his promotion for a day or two.

“Come to the Senate tower as soon as you can. Master Kiwiiks out.” Just like that, the hologram of the Togruta Jedi Master vanished from sight after having bowed to the chamber.

Master Orgus turned his attention to Thravang “No rest for us, my friend. Complete any unfinished business you have and take a shuttle to Coruscant.”

Thravang nodded “I'll leave as soon as I clean myself up, Master.”

Orgus Din was satisfied with that “I need to wrap up some things before I go. Meet you on Coruscant.” Then he bowed his head in a token of respect.

Thravang turned to see a serious expression on the Grandmaster's face “Farewell. The Force will be with you – always.” Once again he got that same head bow.

All the “present” Council members were standing at this point, so he gave them a formal Tsis bow of respect and turned to leave the Council chamber.

 

Chapter Text

After the Council meeting had concluded, Thravang immediately knew that he wouldn't be able to leave as quickly as Master Orgus would have liked. He ran a clawed hand over his Padawan garb – for one thing he would have to replace his Padawan clothing now that he was a Knight. His lips twisted sourly momentarily at the thought of being a Knight. Too soon, but protesting would have gotten him no where with the Council, he rather thought. The Council clearly had been far too impressed with his field work to keep him a Padawan. He sighed as he turned away from the great doors and only noticed a moment later that Felahiran stood there in front of him eyeing him quizzically.

“Why the long face, Thravang?” the blond haired green skinned Mirialan asked with his head cocked sideways at the Tsis. “Did something happen in the Council meeting?” He jerked his head in the direction of the Council chamber.

“Oh, you again, Felahiran,” Thravang grunted petulantly as he ran a hand over his heavily ridged face “I just don't feel ready to be a Knight now.” He sounded irritated now “I don't feel like I've completed my training at all.”

Felahiran raised an eyebrow “Did your Master not tell you that a Jedi's training and learning truly never ends? It only ends on our last breath ere we become one with the Force.”

“Master Orgus was more a man of action and not words, Felahiran,” Thravang replied in a waspish tone. “I've only spent all of four years with the Jidai, and now I'm a Knight just because....” he waved a hand in the air. “Whatever happened to undertaking the formal Trials?”

“Clearly the Council have deemed you ready and fit to be a Knight, Thravang,” Felahiran patiently said then added after a moment of thought “Perhaps they felt they had no time to administer the formal Trials. Things are happening far more quickly than they had anticipated.” He tapped a finger on his lips “Why don't you come and have tea with me? It'll give you time to gather your thoughts and sort them out.”

Felahiran wore what looked to be new robes laid over a shirt and trews, and they were not in the style that Padawans wore They were in shades of brown and cream, and Felahiran caught Thravang eyeing his newly acquired lightsaber “Oh, I was made a Knight yesterday, as well. No formal Trials either. I'm just waiting for the Coruscant shuttle to arrive. My assignment is there.”

“Oh you too? I'm supposed to go to Coruscant to meet up with Master Orgus, Master Kiwiiks and her Padawan. Seems they've found something there that needs to be dealt with, and need some back up. Master Orgus and I are warriors, Master Kiwiiks didn't strike me as the fighting type.”

“No, you are correct. She is a healer,” Felahiran confirmed Thravang's impression. “She's far more sage than warrior.” At that point, they had arrived at the mess hall, and Felahiran motioned him to sit at a table while he fetched the fixings for proper tea.

Once tea had been served Thravang asked “You know why I am going to Coruscant, what's your assignment?”

Felahiran took a sip of the dark brown tea before he glanced at the tall man sitting across the table from him “My Master has fallen ill, and I am to find out what ails her and seek a cure if possible.” He paused to forestall the unspoken questions that were rapidly gathering on his companion's face with an upraised hand “The Council seems to think that perhaps the answer lies in the ruins of the Jedi Temple, but they do not have all the puzzle pieces. That is what I am to find on Coruscant.”

Thravang murmured “I gather that the Healers haven't been able to do anything here.” He flicked a hand at Felahiran who merely nodded at what Thravang implied “And it is likely that the Temple has been looted, and what you need from there is likely missing. Hence, the hunt.”

Once again Felahiran nodded as he sipped at his tea “You're rather astute, Thravang.” Now he smiled fleetingly “The Order is fortunate to have such a young Knight who can think on his feet.”

Thravang arched an eyeridge at that. Was he being complimented? He wasn't so certain. He picked up his own steaming mug and sipped at it. He was well aware that he was being scrutinized closely by the newly Knighted Consular before Felahiran finally commented “One of those days, Thravang, you'll stop puzzling me so much. Your surname.. it is Rath, is it not?”

Thravang affirmed it was so before Felahiran sighed “I was able to find several Raths listed in what archival data we still possess from the days of the Je'daii Order, but that was all. Only the surname Rath, and only one known Rath that had a full name, and only that particular one because he was a Temple Master. The data did suggest that he was from the original Sith species of Korriban.”

Thravang sat back in his chair as he held the mug in one large clawed deep maroon hand “You know as well as I do that the Je'daii Order consisted of many different species brought together by the Tho Vor for the purpose of studying the Force. So the Raths you speak of may or may not still persist today in some form.” (I do not know him. I have no wish to deceive him wholly, nor do I wish to tell him the whole truth. This half truth will have to suffice for now.)

“True enough,” Felahiran admitted. “They may have perished in the civil war when the Je'daii Order splintered into two distinct groups. Many from both sides did. Unfortunately, if the cause of the Force Wars was known, it was lost.” The Mirialan sighed with a shrug of his shoulders. He had noticed that Thravang had been able to pronounce the name Je'daii with no issues at all. He knew well that Thravang had trouble with “Jedi.”

“Perhaps it was some sort of outside influence?” Thravang idly suggested. “Seems strange to me that all of a sudden, there would be a great storm when there were no ripples in the water beforehand for thousands of years.” He took a sip of his tea “After all, the Rakata did have technology that could utilize the Force. So what's to say that Tython wasn't found by others using the Force?” He lifted one shoulder “Jedi pilots often use the Force to find new routes where there were none before.”

Felahiran mulled it over with a finger tapping his chin before he conceded “You may be right about that. It certainly can't be dismissed out of hand. After all it has been well documented in the history of cultures that outside influence can wreck the natural order of things.” He knew that Thravang was still very coy about a great number of things. He still looked too … alien to pass for being Sith Pureblood. He just didn't have that sense of humanity about him, and had been far too content to just let the Jedi Order make certain assumptions about him. He had a hunch that those assumptions were dead wrong, but Thravang was not willing to enlighten him at the moment. One of those days he was going to crack open the shell that was Thravang.

Thravang finished the tea and rose from the table “Thanks for the tea and chat, Felahiran, but I've got to do a few things before I can head out on the shuttle. Maybe I'll run into you on Coruscant, if not before.”

Felahiran waved a hand in farewell “May the Force be with you, Thravang.”

 

45 Katmitaja Erinahra Turinata 10 ATC

 

He had showered the evening before he had gone to bed, and now he stood talking to the Temple Quartermaster about new robes for himself now that he was a Knight. The bald pated aging human Knight took him into the room where robes were kept ready to be handed out at all times. Jedi robes were created to be sturdy and long wearing, but they were still only clothing and needed to be replaced now and then. The Knight eyed Thravang critically for a few minutes then went to the adult male section and sorted through different piles before returning to him “I need to send you to one of our synthweavers, Thravang. We currently don't have anything that would fit you well enough not to be an hindrance in combat.” Then the old Knight gestured for him to follow the old man to yet another room where Jedi were busy with crafting clothing and armor from their synthweaving machines. A female Jedi came up to him and took careful measurements before feeding them into the synthweaving machine she operated. In a few candlemarks, he had two full sets of garb appropriate for a Knight - overtunics, undertunics, outer robes with hood, tabards, and loose fitting trews. A new utility belt was also handed to him. He had chosen ebony, crimson and white as his robe colors. Everyone had looked askance at him, but he stated he was comfortable with those colors due to his cultural background. The old Knight had raised an eyebrow but nodded reluctantly. Some allowances were made by the Order when it came to cultural customs, and personal taste. The old Knight knew he couldn't really quibble with Thravang over the colors when Knight Varalisse herself wore blue and black, and knew that Thravang had sparred with her at least once. Word had gotten around about the “incident” in the Jedi Temple gardens with now Knight Felahiran. The Quartermaster asked if there was anything else he could assist Thravang with, the young Knight nodded at once “Who should I speak with about getting a language implant?”

“For that, I suggest you speak with the Chief Healer. You can find her in the Halls of Healing. Her name is Master Mituhai,” the old Quartermaster told him. He didn't ask why Thravang would need one, he knew why, and it made sense to him.

Thravang gave him a head bow of respect and took everything with him up to his room. He changed out of the old Padawan garb and into one of his new sets. He hadn't yet been given a room that was truly his. He certainly wouldn't mind one near the Temple gardens, he did enjoy those gardens. Waking up to birdsong every morn that he spent at the Temple would be no bad thing, and scenting all those lovely flowers wouldn't be a bad thing either. He also knew that they were in no hurry to move him since he would be leaving shortly for his mission to Coruscant. They could take the time to figure out his living quarters placement while he was gone.

He grabbed a bite in the mess hall then headed down to the Halls of Healing to speak with the Chief Healer. He found Master Mituhai in one of the infirmary wards checking on a patient – a Padawan that had been gravely wounded by the Flesh Raiders – and he recognized that patient. It was that Padawan that he had rescued in the Gnarls.

“I remember you. It was you that rescued us from those Flesh Raiders while we were attempting to complete a trial,” the brown haired young human male murmured as he took in Thravang's new garb and lightsaber with widened eyes.

“I hope that I shall not have to make many memorable rescues,” Thravang said quite dryly which earned him a chuckle from the attending Master.

Master Mituhai, a tawny furred Cathar with eyes that matched her fur color, turned to face him and appraised him curiously for a few moments before commenting “Thravang, what brings you here? I doubt it was to check on Padawan Jerridan.”

“No, but it is good to see that he will make a full recovery. I've come to see about getting a translator implant. I fear that my duties as a Knight will not grant me the time I require to master other languages. I am no linguist.”

The Master nibbled on a claw for some time “It is true that you came late to your schooling. While you did know your way around technology and weapons, your knowledge was severely lacking in a great many things, and four years of intense schooling isn't enough to compensate for what you did not have as a child. (What I did not have? What you mean is that Jidai have no parents, no sense of family and no freedom to be just children.) We Masters have all heard tales of how difficult you were as a student.” This time she graced him with a wry smile. “Very well, I agree to your request. It'll be a simple procedure. If you'll sit on that table over there, I can perform the implantation myself.” She pointed at the appropriate surgical table and turned to fetch the instruments, medication, and supplies she would require.

Within one candlemark, the whole procedure was done, and Thravang lightly fingered the wound dressing in front of his left ear “There'll be no visible evidence of the implant in one week's time,” the Chief Healer told him. He gave Master Mituhai a nod of thanks and a bow in the manner of his people before she smiled and started cleaning up. During the procedure, he could have sworn that the Chief Healer had been tempted to swear once or twice as she struggled with making the necessary incision in his deep maroon skin before she finally found a scalpel with the right edge to do the cut. He stopped by Jerridan on his way out to give his well wishes “May you do well with your studies, and I wish you well with your Trials. May the Force be with you.” Then he was gone through the archway.

Now he would pack what essentials he had into his satchel and check up on that shuttle. There was a message on his datapad from the Chief Healer which informed him which languages were programmed into the translator implant – Huttese, Catharese, Mirialan, Ryl, Miralukese, Shyriiwook, droidspeak, and even Basic just in case he encountered a term he wasn't familiar with yet. He also knew that having the implant merely meant he would be able to understand the languages, not speak them. It was still up to him to learn how to speak those languages.

 

48 Nekircaja Erinahra Turinata 10 ATC

 

Meanwhile, far away on the other side of the galaxy, in the north and east, a newly chosen Apprentice departed Korriban....

 

“Greetings, my lord. On your way to the capital? There is a shuttle to Dromund Kaas. Nice for solo traveler. Normally takes several days. However a Darth has also arranged a berth for you on the Black Talon. It's an Imperial transport and is considerably faster.”

“As it should be.”

“The Black Talon goes through dangerous territory, though. Safe travels, my lord.”

 

*****

 

“Well, tell the captain that I'll be back on the bridge as Soon as I've done his errand.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Good to have you aboard. I'm Lieutenant Sylas, second in command of the Black Talon; we're your ride to Dromund Kaas.” (How polite of her to say so. I already know that the Black Talon is my ride – I am not deaf in my ear.)

“It's a pleasure to make your acquaintance.” (Not precisely a pleasure, but neither is it for them.)

“Indeed. Welcome – it's not a comfortable ship, but as transports go, it does its job. On our present course, we should arrive at the capital within a day. Won't be any trouble. I should also add on behalf of everyone – it's an honor to service the Sith and the Korriban Academy. Consider yourself our guest.” (An honor? How fortunate it is for them that I am not most Sith.)

“Thank you. Your respect for the Sith is admirable, Lieutenant.”

“Thank you, my lord. I'm the Empire's loyal servant” (As it should be) “I won't keep you further. When we arrive in the Dromund system, I'll have you informed. In the meantime, your droid's in the conference room. We picked it up with the upgrades from Geonosis; when we docked here, it mentioned your name.”

(How odd. My Master made no mention of a droid. I believe I shall play along and see what this is about. I am not making myself look a fool in front of these soldiers.) “If my droid is waiting, then I should see what it wants.”

“Feel free to bother the crew if you need anything else. I'll be on the bridge. And you, soldier – when you've done playing honor guard, get back to your post. This isn't a luxury yacht.” (I believe I like this woman.)

“Yes, sir.”

 

*****

 

…..

“What makes you think I care what your master has to say, droid?”

“I am certain that you will be interested. Anyone traveling through Imperial space must listen to my master.”

“What is he, the Emperor? I think not.”

…..

“My name is Rycus Kilran. I'm commander of the Fifth Fleet, second to the Minister of War, and – my personal favorite – the so called 'Butcher of Coruscant.”

(Oh my, getting fancy, aren't we? Why should I be impressed? Big whoopee. You are not Sith, and you are not my Master.)

…..

“Six hours ago, the Republic engaged in an illegal border skirmish on the edges of Imperial territory. One enemy warship escaped. That warship – the Brentaal Star – is carrying a passenger of vital strategic importance. Yours is the only vessel placed to intercept.”

(Too bad. My orders do not come from you.) “I think you're out of luck, then.”

…..

“Feel free to show him what the Empire does to cowards. Then commandeer his ship, find the Brentaal Star, and deal with the general.”

(The Captain, a coward? I think not. This is only a transport, not a vessel of war. He is being sensible to refuse your orders.) “I have other priorities. My Master told me to report to Dromund Kaas, and you are not he.”

“Oh, I can sympathize. But I am sure I can convince your Master to forgive a bit of tardiness.”

….

 

*****

 

“Halt! My lord, this is a restricted area – Captain Orzik's command. You'll have to leave immediately.”

“For your sake, I suggest you back off before someone gets hurt.”

“I'm afraid I can't do that.”

…..

“Our orders were to treat any approach as an attack. You need to take your droid and move it!”

“You do not scare me.”

“You had your chance. We warned you!” (So did you. I warned you.)

 

*****

 

“All marines have been neutralized. Scanning for additional threats.”

“What's going on? Sir....”

“Stay calm, Ensign. Everyone stay calm.”

“No threats found. The bridge is now secure.”

“Unnecessary, but thank you, droid. Call the medbay, I want help for the injured – now.”

“Acknowledged, my lord. Medical assistance will be properly rendered.”

“I do appreciate that, my lord. I am Captain Revinal Orzik; I'm pretty sure I know what this is about. For the record, I take complete responsibility for my actions.”

“I understand, Captain. If nothing else, that should make it easier on the crew.”

…..

“You're here because of the Moff, aren't you? He must want the Brentaal Star's passenger pretty badly. Or maybe he just hates me. The Black Talon would be destroyed chasing a battleship. I fought in the war before, and I'll fight again – but I don't do suicide missions.”

“Neither do I, and I have to agree that the Black Talon is not a battleship. I am not looking to make a martyr out of anyone. We can complete this mission and survive.”

“I expect you to believe that. I see it differently.”

…..

“We don't have a choice – those were Kilran's instructions. So if we are going to survive, we need to work together.”

“I see. You're as much a victim here as I am, aren't you? Damn Kilran and his fleet. All right. I'm not ready to be branded a traitor just yet. We'll get the general. I'm not sure how, but we'll get him.”

“Leave that to me.”

…..

 

“Sir, three shuttles on an intercept course!”

“An assault party. We don't have sufficient defenses to keep them from landing.”

“Let them land. I can handle any boarders.”

“This course of action is deemed advisable, my lord.”

“Shut up, droid.”

 

*****

 

Black Talon Computer: Warning: Secondary power systems damaged. Nonessential systems may be inoperable.

 

*****

 

“You never should've attacked us.”

“Imperial arrogance knows no bounds!” (Oh? You say that, and yet it was the Republic that engaged in an unprovoked strike on the Imperial border.)

“I've beaten worse than you...” (Says the now dead man.)

 

“This is the Captain, my lord. If you can hear this, then we need you on the bridge.”

 

*****

 

“Damage reports from all decks. We're holding together, sir – but I don't know for how long.”

“Make it last, Ensign. Don't let us down.”

…..

“I see you took care of the Republic assault. Welcome back to the bridge, my lord.”

“Thank you, Captain.”

…..

“Transmission coming in! Long range... it's a message, but it's not from the Brentaal Star.” (I wonder what it could be.)

“Put it through, Ensign.”

“This is Jedi Grand Master Satele Shan hailing unidentified Imperial vessel. (No need to identify yourself as Jedi nor Grand Master when your visage is so well known.) I'm en route to your location with sixteen Republic vessels. I'm asking you to retreat before more lives are lost.”

“You honor me, Master Jedi. It's a pleasure to make your acquaintance.”

“I'm glad to hear a voice of reason. Let us end this conflict together. The Brentaal Star is under my protection. Our convoy was ambushed and I sent the Star ahead. We will reunite. I just crippled three Imperial dreadnoughts. I don't wish to destroy you – the peace between Republic and Empire is fragile enough already.”

“I understand that, Master Jedi. The Black Talon is under my command now, and the lives of its crew are mine to guard. I assure you, none of us had a desire to be in this position, but we have our orders from the Butcher of Coruscant. If we retreat, we are as good as dead. Just tell the Brentaal Star to hand over the general. He is but one man. No one needs to be hurt.”

“The general has a role to play with the Republic. Incidents like this are happening across the galaxy, but only because we let them. Leave the Brentaal Star to me. If you don't, then may the Force be with you – because the men and women aboard that ship can hold you off until we arrive. And you will be defeated.” (So gracious – 'may the Force be with you, indeed.' She refuses my offer then. Fool. Now I will have to board the ship and murder because she did not wish to turn over just one man.)

“With all due respect, Master Jedi, we'll see about that. Ensign, end transmission.”

“Affirmative, my lord. Ending transmission.”

 

“Entering fighter range. The Brentaal Star is launching its first squadron.”

“It's time for us to do the same. I assume you'll lead the boarding party to go after the general?”

“Whatever's necessary to end this idiocy.”

…..

“Someone on Dromund Kaas may be disappointed when they don't receive the delivery of supplies, but I thought our situation took precedence.”

“You're doing well, Captain. Continue, and we may just make it out of this alive.”

“Thank you, my lord. We're all doing our best, here.”

“I advise that you proceed to the shuttle bay. The flight to the Brentaal Star may be hazardous – but Grand Moff Kilran has complete faith in your abilities.”

“Didn't I tell you to shut up, droid? I am not telling you a third time. Shut up, droid!”

 

*****

 

“This is protocol unit NR-02. I hope you're receiving this message clearly, and that your flight was free of incident.”

“Please hold for security coordinator Ensign Brukarra.”

“ARGGH! Not you again, droid!”

“The marines are on their way. They'll follow you in and hold each junction you secure. Try not to take too long – we're not a military ship. What you have is all you're getting.”

“Consider me warned, Ensign.”

…..

 

*****

 

“You're speaking to a Special Forces commander, meat. Show some respect.”

“You wish respect? Then meet my lightsaber, and we shall see.”

“So – you think you're tough meat? Ha! Part of me was hoping you'd try to board this ship. For the Brentaal Star – attack! For the Republic!”

 

*****

 

“Halt where you are. I am Yadira Ban, Padawan of the Jedi Order. I was sent to protect the general, and you will not pass.” (How insulting. I am no acolyte, and all they send is this Padawan? Where is her Master?)

“Surrender. Give me what I came for, and your ship can survive.”

“I can not accept that. A Jedi does not surrender the innocent into the hands of evil. But I intend to drive you back – meter by meter, if need be. Just as the Republic pushed the Sith Empire into the dark of the galaxy.”

“Can't we just talk? There's no way we can settle this peacefully?”

“No. Not anymore, I fear. I've assembled my lightsaber. My final trial is to face a Sith in combat.” (Ah. That explains the absence of her Master. She has to face me alone.)

 

*****

 

“You can put aside your weapons. I won't try to run. Besides, I doubt I'd make it to an escape pod without my intestines spilling out.” (Hardly what I would call a lovely sight. I'll pass on that.)

“How did you get injured?”

“Unlucky – caught in your ship's attack. I'm told the wounds aren't fatal, but that doesn't help the pain. I was a general in the Imperial military service. Did they tell you that when they sent you here? Did they even know?”

“You were a servant of the Sith Empire. You should have been honored to serve.”

“If you knew what I knew, you'd understand. If you'd heard what both sides are plotting, you wouldn't be eager to restart this war. They're building doomsday weapons. Shields that envelop planets; missiles that darken suns. Republic and Empire are planning to raze worlds – annihilate civilizations. It will be unlike anything the galaxy's seen since the Great Hyperspace War. And it's too late to stop it – the so-called peace is already lost.” (Tell that to someone who cares, because I do not. You're the reason why the Black Talon was forced to play warship at Kilran's command. The treaty was not meant to last. Even the village idiot would have known that.)

“If that is true, then why defect to the Republic?”

“There's no place for me in the Empire anymore. I thought my last act might be to even the odds – create a stalemate. It doesn't seem to matter anymore. You have me, then. Me, my stomach full of blood and my implant full of cybernetic secrets and stolen plans. What will you do? I'm well aware of Imperial policy regarding my kind.”

“I'm going to bring you to my ship. From there, you'll be transported to Dromund Kaas and then into Imperial custody.”

“Where I'll be tortured or executed, or – at best – placed in a cell for the rest of my life. Still, there's nowhere in the galaxy where I could truly hide. I will follow you.”

“You knew well the risks and consequences when you chose to defect, General.”

 

*****

 

“Captain Orzik here. I understand you're on your way back - I assume congratulations are in order. Our marines have been recalled to the Black Talon. As soon as you're aboard, we'll jump to lightspeed – Republic reinforcements could arrive any minute.”

“Prepare a holding cell. I'm bringing a prisoner. He will require medical attention. See that he gets it.”

“The general? I'm sure the droid and Grand Moff Kilran will be pleased to have him alive. I'll see you on the bridge. Congratulations again – Orzik out.”

“Do not mention those two to me again, Captain.”

 

*****

 

“Well – the heroes of the day return.”

“Welcome back, my lord.”

“My men will take the general to the brig. Congratulations. I never expected the mission to go off this cleanly.” (There is no need to keep congratulating me. One time would have sufficed. My ego does not need to be stroked.)

“I met stiff opposition, but I softened it up, Captain.”

“I've no doubt. You've shown impressive judgment.”

“Grand Moff Kilran is eagerly awaiting your report. Shall I put him through?” (Do I run my saber through that annoying droid? No, best not. I need to exercise some restraint here, or I might not be allowed to depart in peace.)

“Your choice, Captain. It's your command again. Make the call.” (At least I will not have to speak to that insufferable droid again.)

“Put the Grand Moff through.”

“Opening channel now.”

“Well – how fortunate I could reach my friends aboard the Black Talon. The droid's been keeping me apprised of your work, but I very much wanted to hear from you. How did the attack go?” (How presumptuous of you. Friends? Ha! I think not.)

“Sadly, it was entirely too violent. There was a lot of bloodshed today, Kilran. I hope it was worth it.”

“Oh, I'm quite certain it was. Blood is cheap, after all. You should be proud. This is only one of many operations we're conducting across the galaxy; it's a new beginning to the war.” (Lives are not cheap, you fool.) “The general was one of the greatest weapons the Republic had – a defector! - and you've snatched him from enemy hands. I'll remember this, and I'll make sure you're rewarded.”

“Don't involve me again, Kilran. There will not be a next time.”

 

10 Katmitaja Radimhra Kaldrata 10 ATC

 

From one of the port windows, Thravang had watched their arrival at Coruscant as their shuttle dropped through the dusty orange atmosphere to dock at one of the the spaceport terminals. The sun was a dimmed globe of yellow in the sky. So much orange and yellow in the sky. He wondered how the native vegetation managed to thrive in this environment. Not that there had to be much of it. Coruscant was an ecumenopolis, after all. Next to him, Felahiran stirred and leaned across to peer out the window for a few moments, then resumed his seat “You're certainly hard to lean across, Thravang, with your broad chest .”

The two Jidai were sitting in the bulkhead seats, and Thravang was distinctly feeling a bit … crammed in the space. He didn't have enough space for his long legs. This shuttle was clearly used for … short Jidai on missions from Tython. He grunted “Felahiran, you're so fortunate to be short.”

“Pardon?” Felahiran gave him an odd look. The Mirialan was not accustomed to being called short.

“You fit a lot better into seats and spaces,” Thravang simply answered.

“Well... I can see how your height would make things a bit difficult for you. Just how tall are you again?” Felahiran asked curiously.

“Seven feet and six inches is what was said at my last official measurement,” Thravang responded. “I have just passed my twentieth year, so I am quite unlikely to get any taller now.”

“And to think that I am only five and ten. You're nearly two full feet taller than I am,” Felahiran muttered. Now he did feel short. He hadn't been able to pry much out of Thravang during the two week long trip to Coruscant. The Council had elected to send them on the same shuttle from Tython to Carrick Station where there was a Coruscant shuttle waiting for them in the hanger bay. Clearly, their missions had been deemed critical enough that they didn't get to loiter on the station and play tourist. Granted they would have made for poor tourists, being Jedi, but it would not have hurt to walk around and get a feel for things on the massive space station that served as the main hub for the Republic fleet.

 

Chapter Text

 

11 Vidisija Radimhra Kaldrata 10 ATC

 

Kneeling behind an upturned table, a giant figure clad in robes of ebony, crimson and white ducked as a fortunately empty bottle of some dubious brew sailed over his head only to smash into a myriad of broken glass scattering everywhere behind him. That plastisteel wall had not been forgiving to the bottle. The tall broad chested male was not certain if the poorly labeled bottle had been aimed at him or if it had just happened to be tossed in his general direction. Silver eyes exchanged a wry glance with the weary blue eyes of the green skinned male Twi'lek bartender cowering behind the safety of the bar.

Who knew that a mere little drinking contest would get so out of hand and turn into a full fledged bar brawl? He certainly hadn't. His people simply didn't have such establishments back home.

There was a smash followed by a scattering of glass, and there were several more repeated renditions of the same sound. Bottles of dubious vintages flew everywhere without regard for how they would land. There were pained yelps when the bottles found a … somewhat more soft landing, and those yelps were always accompanied by cursing and insults rapidly hurled at each other by various scuffling people, mostly men, but there were also some tough looking women in the wildly milling crowd.

“You're a stuck-up half witted scruffy looking nerf herder!”

“Your mama was bantha poodoo!”

“Bucket brain! You can't even aim properly with that little blaster of yours!”

“You son of a bantha! Why don't you go join the herds on Tatooine!”

“You moof-milker!”

 

Everywhere there were little knots of people screaming and hitting each other with their fists. It was a wonder that no shots had been fired. Yet. But then again, the bouncers had the foresight... or experience to demand weapons be handed over to them or be denied entry.

“Slimy piece of worm ridden filth! Go jump into a sarlacc pit!”

“Flea-bitten furball! Go couple with a Cathar, would you!”

“You stupid little short circuit!”

“Laserbrain tailhead!”

“May spice salt your wounds!”

 

Still kneeling, the robed male couldn't help but find the whole thing fascinating to observe. One of the men, a red haired Human with eyes of green, had challenged him to a “friendly” drinking contest. The wager? Suffice to say that it hadn't involved credits or a form of hard currency since he had informed his challenger that he had come to Coruscant on business for his bosses, and this didn't justify as an expense he could charge to his company account. He just hadn't deemed it fit to inform the cantina patrons who he really worked for. And now he was witnessing the results of what happened when humans and near humans became too inebriated.

“E chu ta!”

“You hutt-spawn! Go back to Hutta and couple with Nem'ro!”

“You're nothing but a schutta!”

“Go fuck your exhaust port!”

“You're a hairless harpy!”

“Your choobies are wrinkled and small like raisins!”

 

Just then a moss green Mirialan entered the fray. His hair was the color of golden honey, and his eyes were the shade of marigolds. He had taken but a few steps forward before a wayward fist connected with his jaw and he reeled and stumbled from the force of the blow. The dark maroon skinned male broke cover from behind the overturned table and raced to his side. He snatched the Mirialan, dressed in Jedi tunic, shirt and trews of green and white, and dragged him back to safety behind the piece of furniture with his left hand.

Felahiran slowly sat up and rubbed his jaw as he peered over the edge of the table to take in the whole scene. He shook his head as he glanced sideways at his companion before he started speaking in a dismayed tone.

“Thravang! Don't tell me that you were involved in this... mayhem!”

“It is chaotic, I'll grant you that much,” Thravang allowed.

“What do you mean?” Felahiran demanded to know as he eyed Thravang.

The Jedi Knight could only give a light shrug “It was supposed to be just a friendly contest. They lost.”

“Just what kind of friendly contest are we talking about here?” Felahiran highly doubted that it would have been friendly in nature. This cantina was in the Black Sun sector, and the Black Suns had a …. very poor reputation.

“Oh, a drinking one,” Thravang casually answered. He calmly pointed out the male human, now lying under a table unconscious, with a black clawed finger “That one challenged me. I didn't quite catch his name.” He frowned in thought “I think he may have slurred it, and you know that I'm not that good with accents yet.”

Felahiran groaned as he smacked his own face with a hand “Didn't your teaching Masters mention that humans react poorly to alcohol?”

There was a pause in the conversation as both Jedi watched one of the drunks, a Devaronian, attempt to throw a chair at someone else only to slip on a puddle of something best left unnamed on the floor and landed on his ass in quite the undignified heap. To make matters worse, the chair came down on top of him.

Thravang couldn't help but chuckle at the sight of that “Haha, did you see that, Felahiran? And to answer your question, no. They never drank anything but tea and water.”

That earned another disbelieving groan from the Knight.

“And it was one Master plus two Knights that were my original instructors. The two Knights were shadows, which you are, I think.” Thravang then inquired “So how did you get dragged into this?”

Felahiran shot him a strange look “I thought the answer should be obvious to you. I sensed the sudden turmoil, and I happened to be passing through the territory when someone ran out of the Silent Sun cantina shouting for help and that there was some big giant Sith in there.” He only shook his head slightly “Somehow, I am not surprised that you are here.”

Thravang grinned for a moment then the smile died on his lips as someone made to throw a hidden boot knife at a blue skinned female Twi'lek that seemed vaguely familiar to him. He decided the time to act was... now.

Behind him he heard Felahiran bring the bar brawl to a full standstill with a firm and stern Force persuade in a voice pitched just right to carry throughout the entire cantina “You will stop. Now.”

Thravang promptly followed with “Lay down your weapons and sit on the floor. Now!” His voice was even more imperious and had an air of expectant obedience to it. Felahiran raised an eyebrow but did not comment. Now was not the time to question his fellow Knight.

The patrons had no choice but to obey the dual Force persuasions from both Knights. Weapons were dropped to the floor which Thravang swept to the side of the room with a gesture of his hand while Felahiran went to attend to the bartender and ascertain that he was alright. The shaken bartender took a deep breath, nodded and clambered to his feet with a helping hand from the Mirialan. The Twi'lek surveyed the damage and let out a low whistle in dismay before he turned to the “Sith” Jedi Knight and said harshly “You can bet that we will charge the Order for the damages that was caused.”

Thravang shrugged “Probably not the first time the Order has been billed for a brawl. I suspect that it probably has been quite a while since the last one, though.”

Felahiran exclaimed “Thravang! You're taking it too lightly!”

Thravang crossed his arms and said soothingly with just an edge of sarcasm to his tone “Then perhaps they shouldn't have promoted me so soon. Apparently they didn't educate me enough on the finer points of biology for short and lightweight not so sentient species. Wouldn't you have to agree?” He ignored Felahiran's indignant reaction to his choice of words.

The Knight now turned his attention to the former combatants kneeling on the floor then his eyes slid to that vaguely familiar Twi'lek woman as he studied her before he jerked his head at the bouncers “They're yours to deal with,” as he made a gesture at the whole lot. There was no security down here in the Black Sun sector. He would have to let the bar deal with the miscreants. The guards nodded before they started dragging people out and tossing them into the streets, whether they were injured or not.

Felahiran made to protest but Thravang replied “Do you fancy marching the whole lot of them back to a more civilized sector? There's no security down here, as you should know. I think the bouncers and guards know what will work best here.”

Felahiran frowned. Thravang added “At least we were able to stop the fight before anything more serious happened.”

Felahiran muttered “One of your making, Thravang.”

Thravang arched an eyebrow and then said in quite a saccharine tone “Then perhaps you best accompany me for the rest of my time on Coruscant to make sure I don't get myself into more trouble.”

“I can not. I have my own mission to complete” Felahiran grumbled.

“Then mind your own business. Thank you for helping me stop the brawl, Knight Felahiran. Have a nice day.” With that Thravang left the Silent Sun Cantina.

 

**** Later that evening ****

 

Thravang was eating his meal at one of the tables at a club located underground in the Senate Commercial District near the Commerce Hall below the Senate Plaza. The club looked decent, the food was surprisingly excellent, and he didn't feel like he was being overcharged for what he had ordered. The table bench was comfy enough although he was clearly the only Jedi eating there at that time of night. He idly wondered if Jedi frequented this place. He glanced around and thought about it. He somehow doubted it, the clientele seemed more of a certain... type. The club, named After Dark, was quiet, with every booth and table under dim lighting, and they weren't clustered closely together, as if the patrons expected privacy. A Jedi probably was the wrong profession to visit this club, but it suited him. He could sit here and eat in peace. The waitress certainly had been surprised to see him enter. The bartender and owner had taken a double take at him as well. He slid furtive glances at them, then at two laughing Twi'lek women who entered the club just then. The club hadn't opened directly into the Senate Commercial District. Instead, the passage to the main door had been hidden discreetly behind a broad Republic Senate banner hanging in front of a shadowed collection of potted trees inside the Drunkard's Vote cantina. He had inquired at the bar about a nice and quiet place to dine, and the bartender had flashed a quick glance in the direction of the banner, but he had covered up that gesture by scrubbing the bar counter. It seemed to be an “everyone knows about it, but no one talks about it” type of arrangement.

The two women caught sight of the unusual visitor to the club, gawked a moment, then drifted in his direction. The blue Twi'lek with amethyst eyes grinned “Oh, isn't that the Jedi Knight you were telling me about, Nurls? Didn't you say that he was wearing nontraditional colors? Black, red and white? The one you were wondering what it would be like to kiss?”

The yellow Twi'lek with deep purple eyes blushed “Yes. Isn't he so exotic looking? Wait until you hear his voice! It's worth swooning over.” She pretended to fan herself with a hand “That accent!”

She stopped in front of his table “Master Jedi, I certainly didn't expect to see you here.”

“That bartender outside sent me here when I asked about a quiet place to eat. It certainly fits the bill, Agent Yorksin,” Thravang answered politely as he pointed a thumb in the direction of the Drunkard's Vote. He took a sip of his beer and put it back down “I like you better in this outfit.” He indicated her street civilian clothing “Not in your 'kiss a Jedi for good luck' dress to pick up 'unusual clientele'.” His grin was teasing.

“I know you! You're that Jedi Knight from the bar brawl! I was there, you gave me this look.” exclaimed the other Twi'lek woman in surprise. She suddenly had his full attention. Thravang's nostrils flared as he inhaled the air deeply. Her scent, it seemed familiar to him, but he couldn't put a claw on it. It still puzzled him now, as it much had in that seedy cantina.

“Excuse me, madam, but have we met before elsewhere?”

The blue Twi'lek chuckled as she proceeded to slide into his lap and ran a wondering hand over his now full beard “Hmm, now that you mention it, you remind me of someone four years ago on Aeten II. He was a Sith Pureblood, but he was still rather … let's say unusual, and he wasn't a full adult, or so he said. Mmmm, but you're so … sexy looking.”

Didn't she just say... Aeten II? That trip he had made with Captain Otheri Angfarod?

He decided to test the air with a phase he had uttered then but with a different twist.

Eyeing her gravely, he responded “Consent I grant you now, Yrada'kella.” There, now to see if she recognized the original phrasing and if he had correctly identified her. He also had used the Twi'lek cultural form of her name.

Her eyes widened in shock as the portent of his words sank in before she burst out with “Oh! It's you! You're far more handsome than you were four years ago, Lord Thravang.” Grinning happily she fingered his beard and cheek tendrils as she settled herself more comfortably in his lap. “You might wish that you still denied me consent as back then.” She touched his lightsaber clipped to his belt “I see that you've earned your lightsaber, Knight Thravang.”

The young Knight regarded both women bemusedly. “I passed my final Trials … a scant three weeks ago, I think.”

“Oh is that so? Then what brings you here to Coruscant, free from the eyes of the Jedi Council?” Nurls asked as Yrada snaked a hand up the sleeve of his left arm to caress the bare skin there.

“A mission I was assigned by the Council,” Thravang responded with just a hitch in his voice. Yrada had made it a point to explore the hard bony ridges on his forearm and elbow, and it was quite sensual. More than enough to cause him increasing discomfort in his trews.

The waitress could only shake her head with a chuckle as she bought both SIS agents their favorite drinks “Here, you two girls. As usual, you'll be discreetly billed for the tab.” She then looked at the Jedi Knight with a coy wink “What happens here, stays here. Maybe I'll get a turn with you, someday, Master Jedi.”

With a soft laugh, the older human woman drifted away to attend to another patron.

Nurls plunked herself at his table “Well, do I get my kiss after all, oh mysterious stranger?” She now looked between the two “Yrada! I didn't know that you two had … history.”

Yrada giggled for a good long minute before she pointedly rubbed her hips against his groin, and the young Knight closed his eyes for a moment. It did feel good. “Oh yes, Nurls. SIS had this sting operation on Aeten II, and we netted him.” She leaned to kiss him on the cheek “As it was, he wasn't what we expected him to be. A Sith Pureblood working with smugglers? Weren't you only sixteen back then, or so you said?”

“Yes.” Thravang kept his answer short as he drained his beer. He didn't want his voice to rise too high and he was really hard pressed not to growl softly in pleasure from what that devious Yrada was doing to him.

“Your Basic is so greatly improved now, Thravang.” Yrada purred “You've still got that sexy accent of yours, though. I'm glad that it hasn't diminished after all this time among us unsavory types.” She moved her lips to his mouth and moaned as she kissed him.

Thravang wasn't certain what to make of the … sensations he was getting now. Sure, he may have thought about shagging someone on Tython, but thinking and doing were two entirely different things, and it looked like he was going to be in for some serious doing with these two women. He didn't think Nurls would want to keep it to just a mere kiss. No, surely she would want more than that.

“As it happens, there are some... discreet rooms. No working ladies are allowed here, but there are sometimes Senators that sneak down here for assignations.” Nurls told him as she waggled a finger at him. Thravang nodded his understanding of her meaning. Yrada caressed his arm one final time before she took his hand and pulled him upright out of his seat. She gave him a dark look full of sexual promise “Follow me, Thravang. I can assure you that we'll make certain that your time is well... spent here.”

With that, the two Twi'lek women took him off to one of those discreet rooms hidden in the back of the club through a back passage off the kitchen hall. Their choice was the last room at the end of the hallway and Nurls slid her hand across the panel outside the door. The door swung open to show walls done up in a warm cherry red with the bed draped in soft scarlet silken sheets and blankets. The lounging chaise was covered in a soft yet tough and durable leather dyed currant. Red everywhere. A color meant to … inspire certain emotions. The implications were not lost on him. There was a mahogany table off to the side, with some chairs around the table. Even the chair cushions were covered in a material easy to clean and would not chafe the skin. And of course, there had to be the obligatory mini bar against one of the walls. In case one got suddenly shy and needed some liquid courage.

His casual inspection of the room was quite rudely interrupted by a hand slipping under his tunics to touch the deep maroon skin and a drawled “Oooh! Those muscles! You seem to have all those ridges.” There was more chest rubbing as he was led to the chaise and pushed down onto it. The two women took turns peeling the layers of his Jedi garb off his chest until his deep maroon skin was completely exposed to their hungry gazes.

“Oooo. All those ridges. Look at them, Nurls. Aren't they just the most lovely things you've seen?”

“Oh, I can think of something else that would even be more lovely to see, but that can wait.” Nurls answered Yrada with a somewhat straight face.

Yrada giggled but nodded “Oh yes that can wait.”

Thravang could feel his face skin darken to a tone nearly black.

“Oh look! We've got our Jedi Knight positively blushing!”

The flush rapidly spread down his heavily ridged neck and downwards into his chest. Two pairs of hands followed the blackening of his skin and slowly fingered the angles of the bony protrusions beneath the skin on top of his sternum and upper ribs. That made him slowly suck in his breath. Until now he hadn't realized just how … sensual his ridges could be.

He slowly let his head fall back on the edge of the chaise and let out a loud yelp when a mouth closed around one of his nipples and sucked. There was quite the giggling that followed, and he thought it sounded like Yrada. She seemed to be the more adventurous of the two women.

He squeezed his eyes shut because he just wanted to enjoy the sensations and he didn't want to see who was nibbling on his nipple. By the crown, that sure did feel good. He could feel his trews start to strain at a certain strategic location and he groaned aloud. A moment later, he didn't have time to wonder if he should have kept his mouth shut or not because his mouth cavity was quickly filled with a warm moist tongue. By the red sands of Katidij, he found that he liked it.

“Oh look, Yrada! His teeth are pointed! Better yet, feel them!”

That caused him to crack open one silver eye and he felt a curious finger slowly run over the tips of his teeth after that warm tongue had been withdrawn from his mouth.

“You've had your kiss, Nurls, I want my turn!”

Chuckling, Nurls yielded to Yrada and still kneeling on one side of him, the yellow Twi'lek proceeded to stroke the extensive ridging that ran down his powerful biceps to midpoint, the ridging on his wrist, and downwards on his chest. That elicited a soft growl from his throat and a comment “Ooo! Even his growl is sexy!”

In the meantime, Yrada thrusted her tongue past his quite willing lips and slowly ran the tip of her tongue over his teeth. They were indeed pointy, as Nurls had stated, but they weren't extremely pointy. Pointy enough to emphasize that he ate mostly a carnivore diet and not much else. She found it fascinating, truly. She ran her hand up over his tipped ear into his loose flowing hair. Se supplanted that motion with a bite on the tip of his ear. That made him exclaim in surprise followed by another growl.

“Do you always growl like that?” Yrada asked as she nibbled the edges of his ear with her soft breath wafting across the outer shell.

“Under certain circumstances, yes it is instinctual,” Thravang mumbled a little breathlessly.

“Yrada, you know that he has only four fingers and black claws where nails would be?” Nurls questioned her fellow SIS agent as she closely examined the objects of her interest. She experimentally popped a finger into her mouth and sucked it slowly as she pulled it out. That earned her a long drawn out moan from the man slowly being tortured on the chaise. Both Nurls and Yrada shared a look and giggled in unison before Yrada answered “I noticed that four years ago Nurls, but the claws were more like nubbins back then.” She flashed a devilish grin before she fastened her mouth to Thravang's once more.

Thravang found himself slowly drowning in a sensory overload from both women, and they hadn't even gotten to the main attraction yet. He was eagerly anticipating what they might do to him there, but he was not in a rush either. Only the Force knew when he would get this kind of opportunity again with him being a Jedi Knight.

Nurls leisurely trailed her fingers down his chest once more until she got to the waistband of his trews. They already had pulled his utility belt off when they had stripped his chest bare. She paused a moment to admire the bulge in his groin area under the armorweave of his leggings before she reached for the button fly and yanked the top layer off in a deft motion of her hand then she pulled the two sides apart.

“Oh by the stars!”

Yrada stopped kissing him passionately and turned to look to see what had caused Nurls' voice to flutter so. Then she gasped.

“Oh! Look at that, would you?” Never mind that both women were staring at his engorged manhood rising straight out of his pants. “He's even got ridges on that!”

“And he's got no hair there.”

“Do you shave?”

Thravang managed to shake his head in response to the question as his claws dug into the synthleather of the chaise. It was erotic to watch the two ladies admire his rock hard member, then it was his turn to gasp in pleased shock as Nurls first reached for his cock and wrapped her fingers around it. Yrada leaned in and softly kissed the head.

His breath easily hitched in his throat at the feel of her lips on the tip of his tarse. He moaned and the hard shaft twitched in response and he was surprised to feel himself involuntarily lifting upwards. That got a soft laugh out of Yrada who winked knowingly at her fellow partner in carnal desires “We'll have to go easy on him.”

Nurls nodded in agreement and started rubbing his wick in a slow up and down motion with her hand “Or at least try to. Mmmm, such exotic candy we have tonight.”

“How sweet does he taste, I wonder?” Yrada mused out aloud.

Thravang gawked at her in turned on disbelief as her meaning sunk in. Women actually tasted that stuff? The mere thought of the blue Twi'lek's woman having her tongue in that sticky stuff and lapping it up turned him on even more. The growl coming out of his mouth sounded a little more guttural “Oooo I do think he likes our talk!”

Yrada stopped teasing him with her tongue and moved to strip his pants and boots off completely. He was now completely exposed to their view. He made a protesting sound in his throat and gestured at the women then at his clothing while he murmured two words “Not fair!”

Nurls and Yrada exchanged a glance that basically said “You know, he's right.” Giggling like older schoolgirls, Nurls and Yrada slowly stripped their clothing off, taking turns, one piece at a time, as they performed a very sensual dance with a lot of hand motions over their own bodies, butt wiggling and knowing coy looks as they licked their tongues and blew him air kisses. The young Jedi Knight could only watch them, completely mesmerized and flooded with deep lust and desire.

So strange that he could find women not of his own species to be so... alluring and exotic as he watched them perform dances that surely did get his blood pumping hot and his heart rate rising. His member was rock hard and straining at this point. He was not in the appropriate state of mind to think overmuch, however, as he beheld the ladies teasing him badly by deliberating rubbing their now bare breasts with their hands until their nipples sprang taunt. He slowly sucked in a deep breath as his gaze stayed glued to the vision before his silver orbs.

Wearing what could be described as extremely provocative smiles, the two women slowly sashayed over to the chaise as his eyes remained glued until they drew near enough for him to reach out with one four clawed hand and wrap his fingers around one buttock. Nurls pushed him back down onto the chaise again, and grinning evilly, she sat on his chest just near enough for him to scent her arousal quite easily. His nostrils flared widely as he inhaled deeply of her scent. It smelled of wet pussy juices, but he didn't know how to describe it to himself. Just that it smelled so good to him. Growling, he reached for Nurls only to have his hands swatted away with a giggle from the woman sitting astride his chest “Not yet, my poor Knight.”

Giving a titter, Yrada gave Thravang a final teasing breast rub show before she reached for his hard shaft again and started running her hand up and down in a firm grasp. The sensations would have made him shoot upright to a sitting position, except for the lovely weight on his chest. He shut his eyes and stifled a sharp gasp as Nurls inched herself slowly up his chest as she rubbed herself against the bony ridges on top of his sternum and ribs. She was getting more aroused, he could easily scent that. The aromas wafting to his nose were so delicious. Another moan escaped his lips and it sounded more desperate even to his own ears. That earned a soft cackling from Yrada who worked him even more harder as she increased pressure and speed. Her other hand ran over his sack and started fondling the family jewels that were contained within. He just couldn't help himself. He suddenly felt like he had gone over the top, and he felt his balls suddenly curl closer to his body, and there was nothing he could do to stop the sudden feeling of very intense pressure about to be popped like a corked wine bottle that hadn't been opened yet. The next thing he knew, he was definitely feeling very embarrassed to say the least. He should have felt like he was in high heaven for a few moments, but he hadn't. All because he had come way too early.

Yrada chuckled throatily as she held up her hand completely covered in a milky white liquid and deliberately proceeded to lick it off.

“Ooo! Let me have a taste!” Nurls said before Yrada let her finish the task.

That did make the young Jedi Knight feel better, but only marginally. He was still embarrassed about the whole thing.

Yrada patted him quite kindly on his flat muscled belly “It's alright, Thravang. It's quite normal, this was your first time, was it not?”

From beneath the arm tossed across his nearly black face, Thravang answered tersely “Yes it was.”

Nurls crooned in her best soothing tone “Oh, don't be so embarrassed! It'll get better from now on as you get more self control and experience. That'll come with time, the more times you do it, even if it's just pleasuring yourself with your hand.”

Yrada nodded sagely and continued to pat Thravang reassuringly. “We can get you ready to go again quickly, I warrant.” She giggled “Then you can make it up to us. This time, it'll be on your terms.” She pointed at the bed with a hand before she rose to get a bowl of water and a washcloth. She washed him off and leaned down to kiss him.

Nurls nibbled on a fingernail in thought before she grinned toothily “Oh! Yrada, why don't we play strip pazaak?”

Strip pazaak? He didn't know that variant had even existed. Just how did that work? Was it what he thought it sounded like? Now his interest was piqued but it had been quite a while since he had last played pazaak.

“Pazaak I know... somewhat, I think,” Thravang ventured “You'll have to refresh me on the rules.”

“Oh, that'll be no problem.” Yrada winked at him. “Get dressed, and we'll do the same. It's like regular pazaak, but every time someone loses a hand, an article of clothing is taken off.” She giggled again “It can be rather … arousing.”

“With you two ladies, I doubt that to be a problem,” Thravang said dryly. He was getting over his embarrassment now with the exciting prospect of playing strip pazaak. Once he had dressed, Nurls took ahold of his hand, urged him upright and guided him over to the table. She waved at one of the chairs to indicate he should take his pick, and he picked one that wasn't too low for him, but he was still going to have to stretch out his legs under the table. The two women had gotten dressed as well, and now brought various bottles from the mini bar to the table and set down 3 glasses which she poured a measure of Corellian whiskey into.. Yrada handed him one with a saucy wink “Part of tradition, buck.” She made sure she had rubbed part of her left breast on his arm as she set his glass in front of him before she sat down at the table. Nurls took one of the other chairs so they all were facing each other at the table before she shuffled the deck and dealt the cards to Thravang, Yrada and herself.

He wasn't sure why they were playing a card game when they already had seen each other in the nude. Perhaps the name of the game here was actually anticipation? He supposed there was really only one way to find out. He picked up the cards and surveyed them. It was obvious to him that the outer layers of clothing would be first to go. It took them 4 turns before Thravang won with cards of 9, 7, 2, 2 and both ladies went over 20. He couldn't help the smug smile on his lips as he watched both slowly take their vests off.

Round two resulted in Thravang losing as he went over 20 with cards of 8, 5 and 9. Yrada won, and Nurls also went over. Now it was the ladies' turn to smile smugly as they watched him pull his tabard off as Yrada whispered to Nurls “I wager you that he's going to lose first.” Nurls nodded wordless as she tossed her tunic off to join the growing pile of clothing on the floor at the ladies' feet.

Thravang answered “And I wager you that you will lose first, madam.” His tone sounded quite sure and insolent as he grinned at her in a rather flirty manner.

“You weren't supposed to have heard that!” Yrada laughingly protested.

Thravang arched an eyeridge cockily and pointed at himself with a clawed finger “You forget that I have a sharp sense of hearing.” He smiled toothily at her as he bared his pointed teeth.

Yrada only shook her head with a chuckle as she took her turn dealing out a new round of cards to all three. Nurls gawked at his teeth while Thravang coolly sipped his drink before he looked at his cards again. Once again he found himself losing the hand with cards of 2, 1, 9 and 6. He lost only because Nurls had gotten 20, and Yrada had gone over the limit. Giggling, Yrada slowly peeled her tunic off and tossed it aside. He himself had to remove his tunic. He dropped it down onto the little pile at the side of his chair. Now all three were sporting their shirts, plus belts, pants and boots. Plus the undergarments for the ladies, of course. He drained the rest of his glass and set it aside. Yrada poured him another measure “Thanks, Yrada.” A pause followed then he said “You do know that I won't get drunk on this, right.” He gave her a roguish smile.

She answered with a coy wink “”No, you're a Knight, but I thought you would enjoy the taste of it.”

“Oh, I do.” was all he commented.

Nurls also finished her glass and set it aside “I don't want to get too wasted that I won't remember this night.”

“Oh me too, darling.” Yrada chuckled throatily “But if we pace ourselves, it won't be a problem.”

Round four ended with Thravang winning with cards of 2, 7 and 10. Both women went over the limit. Now the young Knight chuckled as he leaned back in his chair to watch the two Twi'lek remove their shirts. They oh ever so slowly pulled their shirts up and over their heads with some wiggling and jiggling calculated to draw his attention to their womanly assets before they dropped the shirts onto the floor. Both women had now nearly naked torsos save for their bandeaus.

They refilled their glasses with the whiskey, the bottle was now empty, since they were using generous measures of the liquor. Both women giggled, and Thravang raised an eyeridge at them. He didn't think a repeat of the Silent Sun brawl was likely to happen, since it was just him and the two women so he wagged a clawed finger at them “Mind your intake, lest you take leave of your senses.”

Yrada all but purred “Don't worry, Big Red. We're just getting loosened up and having a grand time. Nurls and I know our limits.” The other Twi'lek nodded quite emphatically with a gamine grin and a sly wink at him.

He gave them a long lingering look before he finally gave a nod of his head and shuffled the cards. It took him a few moments to figure out how to shuffle without having his black claws get in the way then he dealt the cards out. So began round five, and it ended with Thravang winning again. The smile on his lips grew more cocky as both women exchanged a glance “Must be beginner's luck. Big Red's doing better than I expected.”

Nurls gave him a glance that was both flirty and accusatory.

Thravang immediately shook his head “No, I'm not using the Force. It would serve no purpose here, and it would quite spoil the fun. There's no honor in cheating.”

Nurls nodded as she came over to his side of the table, took a swig of his drink, set it down with a clatter on the table, and gave him a liquored feathery kiss on his lips before she sashayed back to her chair, and did a little dance as she took her belt off. Yrada cackled as she slid her belt off deliberately and slowly slid the article down her legs inch by inch.

He dealt new cards for round six, and found himself on the losing end with cards of 6, 8, and 3. Yrada had a higher score, and Nurls just didn't score high enough to beat Yrada. Yrada's total came to 19, and Nurls had 18. A mere one point difference between all three. “Ooh! Let me help you, Big Red,” Yrada said as she came over to strip his shirt off to expose his bare chest. She caressed a blue finger over the ridges on his chest before she leaned down and grazed one nipple with her teeth before she straightened with an evil smile on her lips as she sauntered back to her chair. Thravang bit back a groan as he felt the pressure inside his trews. Of course, his member had been twitching for a bit now, but now the pressure was really growing.

He quickly drained his glass, and after perusal of the remaining bottles, selected what smelled to be a type of brandy. He sniffed it before he poured a measure into his glass. Nurls shuffled the cards and dealt the cards. After a few hands, Thravang lost again with cards of 4, 5, 1, 3 and 6. Nurls giggled as she won with 20, and Yrada went over. He shook his head with a smile as he regarded the cards on the table. He had lost by one point. This time, the ladies let him remove his belt. He unbuckled his belt and unwound the layers of the wrap until the entire length dropped to the floor to join his pile. He simply let the rippling of his chest and arm muscles do his teasing with a knowing smile on his lips.

Once again Nurls shuffled and dealt, and both ladies lost to Thravang's cards of 2, 8, 4, 9 and a special card of minus 4. Yrada had 17 and Nurls had stood at 16. Sometimes a lower score was enough to win, but not this time. Thravang grinned openly at them as he crooked a finger at them with a beckoning gesture. Both ladies giggled as they reached for their pants and peeled them off with motions meant to tease him. Both pairs of trousers were tossed aside, and Thravang drank in the view of both Twi'lek nearly naked save for their undergarments.

Yrada took over the deck and dealt a new round. Once again, after a few hands played, Thravang won with cards of 9, 4, 4, 6 and another special card of minus 3. The two women grumbled good naturedly about his luck with having special cards in his possession. Thravang merely smiled “Luck, that's all. Thank you, Yrada, for dealing me such good cards.” He gave her a wink that spoke volumes. The two women leaned together and held a barely whispered conference. They had the option of removing either the bandeau, or underwear. It was just a question of which. After a few minutes, both nodded, and removed each other's bandeaus. Knowing that Thravang would be watching, both Nurls and Yrada allowed their hands to flow over each other's breasts one by one, taking great pains to thoroughly thumb and pinch their nipples until they were erect and straining to be suckled. There was a corresponding slow growl from Thravang who was avidly watching the show. Both women tittered as they smiled at each other. Neither one had made eye contract with Thravang on purpose, only each other.

Growling quietly, Thravang seized the deck and shuffled the cards then dealt them out. It wasn't his turn to play the dealer, but someone had to with both women twittering as they teased each other. He wondered if they had a relationship or were just putting on a show for him. They certainly didn't seem to mind sharing him tonight, and they had arrived together at the private club. He rapped his claws hard on the table to draw their attention. Both women now turned to look at him and grinned wickedly. They knew they were getting to him, and slowly strolled back to their chairs. Before they sat back down at their respective chairs, both shared a tender kiss. Thravang raised an eyeridge but made no comments for now.

The cards played out, and Thravang lost with cards of 6, 5 and 7. Yrada had lost too. Nurls chuckled as she got to keep her single remaining piece of garment on. She eagerly helped Yrada take her underwear off, then tossed the dark purple lacy shimmersilk thongs at Thravang, and it landed on top of his head. He took it down with his left hand and scented the very feminine item. There was nothing but snuffling sounds from him as he held it up against his short nose. He could smell the increasing arousal on the piece of clothing. It smelled good and delicious to him. He wondered what it would taste in his mouth, but he had no wish to be licking cloth. Not even that would be tasty. Yrada giggled as she sashayed over to him and tapped a foot on the floor as she pointed a slender blue finger at his boots. She deliberately came close enough that he took a strong good whiff of her womanly smell in his nostrils. He swallowed once before he teased her “If you want my boots off, my feet are under the table.”

Chuckling, her amethyst eyes twinkled quite mischievously before she nodded with another one of those grins that never boded well for a young attractive male and she proceeded to get down on her knees on the floor then crawled under the table. She made sure to wiggle her buttocks just so. That got her another one of his soft quiet growls and a hearty smack to her buttocks which made her yelp under the table. It did not stop her from pulling his boots off once she undid the straps that kept them firmly in place so they didn't go flying when the Jedi Knight did some of his more acrobatic techniques in his lightsaber drills.

After a few more butt smacks and barely-there raking of his claws across her buttocks, Yrada wiggled out from under the table with his boots in hand and the sapphire colored Twi'lek woman placed them on top of his pile. She rubbed at her buttocks as she walked back to her chair. Thravang tossed her a smirk as she took back the deck and dealt the new cards.

Nurls was all but positively drooling over the prospects of what the Jedi Knight might do to her. Watching Yrada get raked with those claws had excited her even more than the slow burn the game was providing. But of course, there was only one of him. Meanwhile, Thravang was thoughtfully eyeing his left hand claws. It had been an impulse thing to do. A test to see if doing such a thing would be liked. Clearly, Yrada had, and he knew all too well by Nurls' scent that she had. The question was only how rough he could get with his claws and still have an enjoyable experience for the women. He did not wish to injure them since it was entirely possible on account of the women not being Tsis.

The two women screamed with glee at the conclusion of the round because Thravang had lost by going three over the limit. Nurls had a fatuous smile on her lips as she yelled “My turn, Yrada!” Laughing, Yrada pulled Thravang out of his chair, but only after he had pulled his legs from under the table so he could rise to his feet. He towered over both women, since both women measured five feet eight inches tall. Nurls murmured as she came up to him “Oh my, aren't you quite the big fella, Thravang?”

The Tsis Jedi Knight could only shrug “At least I won't be getting any taller. I am at my full growth now.”

Yrada giggled “In more than one way, Big Red.”

Nurls' grin was full of mirth as she yanked the button fly apart in one smooth motion. His manhood sprang forth as if it was glad to be finally free of its prison, and Thravang gave a sigh of relief at the release of pressure from having his member being so tightly constrained. Yrada jerked the pants down to his ankles and Nurls backed him onto the chair again. Both women leaned down and tugged the pair off and onto the heap of his clothing. Yrada was completely naked, Nurls still had her underwear on – a pair of finely woven shimmersilk in black. Nurls went back to her chair and sat down with a sly smile on her lips “Let's see how many more rounds it will take you to lose, Big Red, until I lose this last little thing.” She patted her undies with a knowing smirk on her lips. Yrada sat on his lap and slowly started performing a hip dance on his thighs with his hard cock against her back.

The Jedi Knight growled as he grasped her thigh firmly with his right hand as he held his new cards in his left hand. He used the Force to flick his first card to the table, face up. It was an eight. Nurls played a 7 as her grin grew more salacious. Yrada wiggled herself around so she was now facing him, making sure that she kept rubbing against his hard shaft as she shifted positions. She lightly ran a finger down the aching member. Thravang refused to let that distract him from the game since that was most likely Yrada's intentions.

She mock pouted when she realized she would have to change tactics “Well Big Red, I see that you're going all Jedi on me.” She tutted then sniggered as she leaned in until their chests were touching. She made sure his tarse was quite thoroughly sandwiched between their bellies before she wiggled her crotch against him. Thravang arched an eyeridge and Force flicked another card to the table. It was a 5, and Nurls played a 1. She was enjoying watching Yrada's efforts to distract the Jedi Knight. Yrada was now more determined to distract him so she took her breasts into hand and rubbed her nipples against his as she kissed what passed for his beard. A thought struck her, and she pulled one of his cheek tendrils into her mouth. He jerked, but that was all he did as he glanced at his cards. Damn that Knight. He was now playing hard to get. He flicked another card, a 3, to the table out of his left hand before Yrada decided that there was only one thing left she could do to break his focus. He didn't get to see what card Nurls played next because Yrada rose off the chair just enough until she felt his straining member slide under her, and the next breath, she had impaled herself on him. Thravang let out a whoosh as he felt her very moist center slide down his hard cock until she sat squarely on him. He watched Yrada's eyes practically roll back into her head for a moment as she gasped “Oh by the stars! You feel so good.”

He instinctively moved to grasp her waist with his large hands as he regarded her quizzically with what little control he had remaining to him “I thought I was in charge now.”

Yrada giggled “Sorry, Big Red, but I just couldn't help myself.”

He growled softly “Be careful what you wish for, you conniving spy.” He was teasing, of course. The cards in his left hand now lay forgotten on the table, and Nurls' laugh was more mischievous as she cleared the cards off the table and moved the liquor to the nightstand next to the bed.

Yrada definitely felt wet to him, as impaled as she was, but he did have to wonder if she was truly ready for what he could do to her. There was only one way to find out, however. The Jedi Knight growled again as he tested the fit of her with a hard buck of his hips against her. A sharp gasp emerged from her throat at the motion and she grabbed his shoulders with her hands “Oh! Do that again.” He complied with her wish.

Nurls came over to stand by Thravang and Yrada with quite the lascivious smile on her lips as she leaned in to whisper into his tipped maroon ear “Kiss her, you silly Jedi. Feel her with your hands. Don't they teach you anything?”

Thravang gave her a baleful look at the question “Of course, they teach a great number of things. They just don't teach … certain things. Only what they consider appropriate and proper.” Now his lips twisted into a wry grimace “This isn't considered appropriate and proper, but you already know that.”

Then he needed Nurls' advice by slowly and tentatively leaning until his lips hovered from just touching Yrada's lips. “Oh you!” Nurls proceeded to end Thravang's slight hesitation before she shoved both their heads together.

Now that his lips were squarely against hers, Thravang slowly reached out with his tongue to brush against the soft yet firm surface. He slowly traced the outline of her upper and lower lip with the tip of his tongue, and Yrada parted her lips with a groan of pleasure. He took that to interpret as being given permission to do more than just that. Never mind that she had already impaled herself on his hard quivering shaft which should have been a loud clear implication of full consent. He closed his eyes as he slid his tongue into her waiting mouth. Then her tongue came out to duel with his. Man that felt so good, and he slowly started to plunder her mouth. Another growl escaped his throat.

While he was kissing Yrada with evident rising passion, he felt Nurls take his hands and covering her hands with his, Nurls guided their linked hands to Yrada's breasts and slowly went in circles around the firm mounds of quivering flesh. The Jedi Knight found them to be rather a small handful for his large hands, but that couldn't be helped. The hands gradually moved inwards while he continued the kissing which had turned fierce. The kissing stopped when Yrada had to get fresh air into her lungs, and she moaned when Thravang took that opportunity to buck his hips again. He rather liked the feeling of her straddling him, and liked it even better getting Yrada to make so much noise. She whimpered when the hands got to her nipples as a sultry feminine voice whispered into his ear “Rub them, pinch them, suckle them, nibble on them.”

Now that Yrada had sucked in more air, Thravang quite eagerly resumed his passionate kissing while he did as that voice suggested. He even lightly traced his claws over her nipples which definitely got a reaction from Yrada as she shoved her breasts against the hands as she whimpered more. When she had to break the kiss to take a long shuddering breath, Thravang seized the opportunity to lean her back until he could bend down and ran his tongue over her erect tits.

“Oh! More!”

After washing her cobalt blue nipples with his tipped tongue for a few minutes, he lightly grazed them with his sharp teeth which earned him a sharp intake of breath and a long moan. After gently nibbling on them for a few moments, he pulled one into his mouth. That made Yrada arch her back and pushed herself even more against him. He buckled hard against her again, and there was a half strangled scream. It was only half strangled because Nurls was locked in a rather heated kiss with Yrada while Thravang's mouth had been busy elsewhere. Since he had no vocal guide now, Thravang took matters into his own hands. He wrapped his tongue around a nipple while his right hand found the other tit and started working it with his fingers and claws. Then he bit down on the nipple nestled in his hot mouth. That got her hips ground against him and a muffled yell. He pulled back from her breasts and let his hands simply wander over Yrada's sapphire colored skin. Her tits were more of a cobalt blue, since they were darker in color. Now and then he would pause to lightly rake his claws across her skin. Then he delivered a smart smack to Nurls' covered ass which was next to his chair as her body was canted sideways so she could kiss her fellow agent ardently. That earned him a startled yelp and a licentious grin on his lips grew. He was definitely enjoying this in more than one way. For a very brief second, he wondered what to do with his free hands as he glanced between Nurls and Yrada. Then he thought of something. After all, Nurls had said for him to feel Yrada up. So he would feel Nurls up instead. Yrada already had claimed the game's grand prize.

He reached over and raked his left claws down the yellowy chartreuse of Nurls' back from her left shoulder until his hand reached her buttocks and cupped the right cheek firmly. He let his claws dig just a bit to make their pressure points known. Then he rolled his hips a few times. Both women's gasps were stifled by their kissing. His right hand continued to toy with one of Yrada's tits, going between them at random intervals as he pleased. He left slight indentations in the skin on her buttock before he leisurely caressed her back, buttocks, and the back of her thighs with his left hand, and making sure to let his claws be known here and there. He then walked his fingers over to the area between her legs since Nurls had moved her right leg onto the chair nearest him, and he Force dragged it close, and that gave him the opening he needed. He snaked his fingers between her legs, and Nurls tensed only a moment before she groaned and moved her right leg just that tiny bit farther away. He took it as a silent invitation to do some exploring. He continued his slow roll of his hips and his teasing of Yrada's tits to elicit a lot of muffled noise from the poor woman. Nurls was busy kissing her, and had just shoved Thravang's hand off the tit he had been tormenting to continue the sensual torture with her own fingers. With a not so quiet growl that was partially irked that promised retribution to come later, the Tsis elected to better employ his now free hand by stroking one of Yrada's lekku. That made the woman buck harder against him, and she still had one hand on his right shoulder, and her left arm was against the table behind her for support. He started thrusting into her deeper and harder as he let his hand slip down the lek to rake her back with his claws. His left fingers found a small hard mount of flesh between Nurls' legs, and he tested that with a claw. Nurls let out a cry of pleasure at that so he took the hint and started playing with that little thing. He used his claw to rub over it repeatedly and Nurls started grinding herself against his hand as she groaned.

He growled with just a tiny bit of frustration – he had nothing to do with his mouth. What could he do, blow air kisses? No, that wouldn't suffice. His lidded gaze slid until his eyes alighted on Nurls' lekku. Of course, that was it! He freed his left hand and Nurls made a protesting noise because she hadn't wanted him to stop. His hand was gone just long enough from her nether regions for him to snag one of the yellowy chartreuse lekku and brought the pointed end of the lek to his mouth and sucked it in. That made Nurls yelp in quite a pleasing manner to Thravang. He then put his hand back between her legs and while his longest finger went for her little clit again, he used his thumb to feel the soft “lips” he had encountered. Curious, he used the claw on his thumb to split the lips apart and after running his finger over the very moist area he found within that had been hidden by the lips, he discovered a hole that was definitely not the main exit for Nurls' sewage system. And Nurls was making such delightful noise even as she kissed and played with Yrada, so he took that what he was doing wasn't amiss. He changed his hand's position so his thumb was on her clit, and his finger delicately probed that new hole. Finding it really slippery and hot, he did not hesitate to delve into the tunnel. It came to him that it was most likely the same tunnel that felt so glorious wrapped around his hard cock that Yrada was sitting on. His claw came across a special spot that made Nurls really moan and whimper. He sucked and rolled his tongue around the part of Nurls' lek in his mouth, and the pressure of her against his hand increased. Between his combined teasing of both women, and Nurls heavily fondling Yrada, and his own hard thrusts into Yrada's core, it did not take that long for both women to reach their climaxes. He felt Nurls' tunnel spasm against his finger, and a wet fluid drip all over his hand. Both women had shrieked in sheer ecstasy at that moment, and Yrada's core also had squeezed his member hard in waves, and he had stopped moving within her to savor that feeling. He had smelt their increasing lust and desire, and now their completion. He licked his hand clean of the juices from Nurls, while he resumed his humping, slow and gentle at first.

Nurls stared at him licking her off his fingers and claws, and raising one eyeridge, he deliberately licked them clean slowly. A savoring lick and moan here and there. A satisfying soft suck as he pulled a finger out of his mouth after he pulled the last of her pussy juices off with his tongue. The smile on his lips was a slow devilish one as Nurls' breathing hitched a bit as he rasped out “Sweet yet salty. I like.”

Yrada was about to open her mouth to say something when he gave her a good hard snap with his hips. Whatever she had been about to say was forgotten as she whimpered “You're still hard as stone, Big Red.”

His answer? A good long hard slam into her to make his point. “Satisfied I am not yet.” The s was beginning to become sibilant as he spoke. He could sense Nurls' surprise at that before she tilted her head for a few moments as she glanced between him and Yrada consideringly. “I think I'll have a rest while you pound her into the ground, Big Red,” she giggled madly “Then it'll be my turn while she gets to … recover.” That last word was said with a snigger.

He slammed hard into Yrada even as he glanced at Nurls and nodded wordlessly in agreement with her decision. Good, he would be able to focus on one woman now. He turned his attention back to the mewling Twi'lek woman in his lap who was eagerly anticipating his taking of her. He was aware of Nurls moving around in the room as she gathered up some wine that looked to be red, something that smelled fruity and was covered with a substance that he couldn't quite identify yet, and then the sounds of her feet finally stopping and settling on something. The bed, he thought, but didn't turn his head to confirm his guess.

Growling, he spoke to Yrada “J'us tuti ki datar” before he raked his left hand down her chest from right shoulder to left hip, leaving a trail of long scratches in the wake. Then his mouth was on her cherrilet and he sucked hard as he drew it in. Her hips bucked against him, and he pounded into her hard and swift as he nibbled, bit, and teased her cherrilet with his teeth and tongue. His right hand wrapped itself around her ass and his claws sunk into her skin, but not deep enough to draw blood, but they definitely made their presence known on her skin. She whined, whimpered and begged him for more tender ministrations, and he obliged her by tearing his mouth away from her tit and ground his mouth against her sapphire colored skin to her neck where he sucked hard on her neck several times in different spots with nibbling here and there. He fought to keep himself from biting her in her shoulder. Really biting her. Not the mere nibbling he was doing to keep himself in check. He had sharp and pointed teeth, he wanted to keep damage to a minimum. He worked his way up her neck and jawline to her mouth and claimed her mouth in a bruising kiss. Most assuredly he was not being tender at all. Her begging grew more frantic as his left hand flowed up her body to stroke her lek. Even lightly raking the tail from head to tip with his claws. How she had really liked that, and he made a note of it. His right hand squeezed her ass, but he had to draw on his Jedi training to avoid squeezing her lek with his left hand. No, he had to stay in control of himself. He must. Yrada was no woman of his own species. His breathing grew ragged as he strove to find that satisfaction he knew that had to be there, and yet remain in control of himself. He felt a soft delicate hand reach between their slick and slippery bodies to fondle his balls. Now that made his control slip away more and he started hammering her with a deep growl here and there. He felt her other hand scratch and claw at his skin and hair. He did not mind that. He liked the feel of her nails scraping across his skin. He let loose a more deep and somewhat feral growl as he hilted his full length inside her with every thrust that bottomed out as he chased that elusive feeling he knew he was missing. He let the ridges of his chest rub and grind against the hardened peaks of her breasts as his mouth ravished hers. By the time Yrada finally scattered with his name screamed shrilly in the air, she had been positively nearly insatiable with her desire for the man hammering her so hard that he had to use the Force to keep the chair grounded or the table and chair would have gradually thumped across the floor. This time Yrada orgasmed so hard that Thravang was unable to keep himself in check and he keened piercingly as he spilled his hot seed into her. He kept a firm hold on the woman that had ridden him so skillfully until his body quieted from the spasms he endured joyfully. Once he had regained enough of his senses, he realized he had crushed her back against the table with his full weight on her. She was bound to have quite a fetching bruise on the morrow. He straightened and pulled back his sweat soaked crimson hair as he pulled away from her. He immediately used Jedi techniques to control his breath and bring his heart rate back to a normal rhythm. He opened his eyes and gazed at Yrada with a rueful smile on his lips as he brushed her lek away and tucked them behind her back “So that's what it's like. Quite enjoyable, it was.” Then he shook his head “I fail to see what the Order is so concerned about.”

His tone became more serious “Thank you, Yrada'kella. Are you alright?”

Yrada breathlessly laughed “Of course, darling. I'll be fine. I must say, Thravang, you give one hell of a ride.” She now mock pouted “I fear that you have spoiled other men for me now. I don't think they will measure up to you now that I've finally gotten my hands on you.”

Thravang chuckled “I have the sense that it won't be the only time, Yrada. You damn SIS agents have a way of turning up. It will have to be discreet, though. You know the Order's stance as well as I do.” He gently disengaged from her once his manhood had sufficiently deflated. As he stood up, he placed her on top of the table and she winced with a soft groan “Ooooh, I'm so tender. I'm not complaining, though, Big Red.” She reached up and ran a hand over his beard with quite a winsome smile plastered on her lips. She was quite the happy girl now that she finally had fucked him.

Nurls chose that moment to unfurl from the bed and padded over to the two figures at the table. She leaned over to kiss Yrada then had to rise on her tiptoes and tugged at Thravang until he bent his head so she could give him a gentle smooch “I bet you must have worked up a ravenous appetite.”

There was a studious moment before Thravang answered. He had sensed that Nurls was eager about food for some reason. He personally wasn't hungry, but it appeared that it was the norm for men of other species to be quite hungry afterwards. So he decided to humor the woman with a gracious smile “Certainly. Did you have anything specific in mind?”

Nurls chewed on a fingernail as she contemplated him until she inquired with sheer curiosity “So what do you eat? Or would like to eat? I would need to see what options the kitchen has in stock.”

His response was prompt “Meat. Especially as bloody as possible. However, I'm sure you ladies don't like the taste of blood, so medium rare would do. It needs to be juicy too. Fruit would be an acceptable substitute.”

“Rather carnivorous, aren't you?” Yrada observed idly.

Thravang's reply was a bared smile to display all his pointed teeth at her.

Nurls lightly ran a fingertip over the tips of his teeth “So what else can you eat?”

“Vegetables. Nuts. No dairy, no grain.”

“But weren't you breastfed?” Yrada asked with a blush at such a personal question.

“Yes, but once we're weaned, we lose that ability to digest lactose.” The young Tsis Jedi Knight shrugged with a lift of his shoulders. “It's a species thing.”

“Perhaps something with diary that has been cooked. Cheese, yogurt. Maybe.” Nurls mused out aloud “But not tonight. Later, when you have time to deal with any possible.... side effects from the experiment.”

Thravang waved his hand in agreement “I would be willing to try that. But as you have said, not tonight. I still have my mission to complete.”

Nurls turned to Yrada “Dear, why don't you … recover while I fetch the food for all of us? I'll have Cykesa help me. You know how she is the soul of discretion.” As she turned in the direction of the door, she flashed Thravang quite the lecherous smile. Then she was gone.

By the time Nurls returned with Cykesa in tow carrying platters of food, it had been long enough that Thravang's refractory period had reset itself and now Thravang was ready for more action.

Cykesa proved to be the human woman who had brought the SIS agents their drinks at the table and she winked knowingly at Thravang as she paused to admire his nakedness “Oh wow. You sure do clean up well under those robes.” As she set the platters down on the table, she reached out and tweaked his nose with her fingers “When can I book a night with you?”

Thravang was at a loss for words momentarily before he flushed under his dark maroon skin “I shall inform you when I am available for such a rendezvous.”

Giggling, she nodded “That'll do. Just pop back here, Master Jedi, at night and I'll be around.” She tapped her finger under his chin with a saucy wink and a light tweak of his left cheek tendril then she took up the empty trays and walked out of the room briskly.

He turned to Nurls “Is it customary for naked women to walk through the club?” He ran his silver eyes up and down her figure. She hadn't bothered to get dressed.

Yrada laughed “That's why we have the back passage, darling. It goes straight to the kitchen, and nothing really fazes the staff. After years of service in the SIS, we agents have pretty much seen it all.”

Nurls picked up the thread of the conversation then “And a naked person appearing in the kitchen is code for 'there's still unfinished business and food is required for strength to continue.'”

She waggled an eyebrow at the Jedi Knight who could only shake his head “You SIS agents. I suppose that Jedi are just as strange to you in their own ways.”

On one platter there was a generous amount of steaming hot meat that had been cooked to just medium rare. The strips of meat also smelled freshly butchered to his flaring nostrils as he inhaled the scent of meat slick with delicious juices. In a metal bowl there sat an assortment of fruit, and in a smaller bowl there were a dark brown colored liquid that flowed slowly if moved from side to side. It was neither liquid or solid.

Nurls seated herself on his lap and reached for a strip of the thin strips of meat and motioned for him to open his mouth. A little mystified, he obliged her willingly. Yrada went to stretch slowly and carefully on the chaise with her own food set to the side as she watched them. Nurls had brought Yrada a plate of scrambled eggs, buttered toast, sliced banana and a cup of restorative tea.

Tittering, Nurls slowly slid the piece of meat into his mouth and let him swallow it down his throat. She proceeded to lick the juices that had dripped off the meat onto his chin and chest. Thravang found that arousing, and he let out a quietly appreciative growl at the feel of her tongue on his skin. She fed him two more strips of meat that had been sliced against the grain so they were long and narrow at the same time. Just the right size for mouth feeding. More licking followed as more juices dripped, then she snaked her tongue into his mouth for a quick teasing kiss before she pulled away. He was definitely now … intrigued as his manhood started waking up from its short slumber.

She gestured to the bowl of fruit. He brought the bowl over to him with the Force so he could have a look at the contents, and saw a cluster of small dark purple fruits that would have to be pulled off a woody stem. Grapes, his memory supplied him with the name of the fruit. He selected that, sent the bowl back to the table with the Force again, and popped one grape into her eagerly waiting mouth. The oval burst open as she bit down and swallowed. He dipped the next one into that brown sauce and fed it to her. Part of the sauce dripped and it happened to land on top of her left breast, so he licked that off and she moaned in response. He found that he liked the dark brown sauce. It was a little on the bitter side, with just the right amount of sweetness. As he lavished her nipple with his tongue he asked what it was.

“Dark chocolate. Oh! It can be melted and a sauce made from it for desserts. Ooh! It can also be ground into powder for mixing with flour and the like for cakes and cookies and so on. Oooh!” The last came out as a long and lingering groan of pleasure. He pulled four more grapes off the stem and stabbed his claws into them. Then he dipped them into the dark chocolate sauce, and smiling roguishly, he held a finger claw impaled with the dripping chocolate covered grape out to her. She opened her mouth slowly and waited for him to insert the grape laden claw. Raising an eyeridge, he took the hint and obliged. She pulled the grape off with her teeth, nibbling his finger as she did so, and then wrapped her tongue around his finger and sucked it clean as he pulled it out of her mouth. She moaned as she ate the grape while the Jedi Knight leaned in and licked her lips clean with the tip of his tongue. He waggled the remaining three loaded fingers in front of her face and she liberated the grapes one by one, making sure to wipe his fingers clean every time with sucking. His own breathing hitched a few times and he let out a low growl of pleasure. They shared a chocolate filled kiss, all sweet and heated, and then she broke free with a teasing grin on her lips. She held up a succulent piece of meat that fairly dripped juices down her fingers, hand and forearm. His eyes tracked the slow trail of juice flowing down her arm and growled once again. He seized a hold of her arm with his hand firmly setting its clawed fingers into her skin as he bent down and rasped his tongue over the juices as he licked her skin clean until he got to her fingers and the piece of meat still being grasped. He took a bite of the meat right there as he made it a point to scrape his teeth against her skin. He made sure she could feel the meat getting sucked into his mouth. Once it had gone down his gullet, he swiped her hand and fingers clean with a nibble here and there. She caressed the back of his neck where his bony ridges were more prominent, and he growled with a soft rumble in his chest.

Yrada had made a mental note that Thravang seemed to especially enjoy having all those ridges touched. It was probably like her species with the lekku. Very erotic to have them touched, stroked and kissed, and what have you. She leisurely ate her food and sipped at her tea as she watched them slowly feed each other the meat and the fruit until both the platter and the bowl were empty. Interesting, the chocolate dip bowl still had a goodly amount left. It was clear to her that Thravang had only so much of a sweet tooth before it was satisfied. She giggled to herself – it was also quite evident that their Jedi Knight had been raring to go for a bit but had restrained himself. The rather illicit hearty snack (illicit as far as the Order was concerned, considering the activities having been partaken of so far) came to an end with Thravang growling as he grabbed Nurls and swung her over his shoulder. He paused long enough to smack her ass a few times, getting a few yelps out of her in the process, then strode to the bed. As he passed by Yrada he remarked “I hope you enjoyed the show” with a waggled eyeridge at her and a salacious smirk on his lips. A few more strides and Thravang tossed Nurls onto the bed with a muffled thud as the bed absorbed the sudden impact of her weight. He knew that Nurls was not hurt, he had used the Force to soften her landing so that fine ass of hers would not be bruised. He wanted to be the one to bruise it, not the bed. Depending on how rough Nurls liked it. The bed groaned and creaked as it took Thravang's dive onto the mattress. The young Tsis male reached for the quite willing Twi'lek woman and hungrily kissed her as his hands explored her body now that he no longer had Yrada in the way. Or so he thought.

A finger tapped him on the shoulder and he growled, peeved, as he turned his head to glance at Yrada. Yrada held out the pot of chocolate dip to him “Thought you might find an use for this, Big Red.” She winked at him, utterly unfazed by his glower at being interrupted. He plucked the pot out of her hand and set it on the nightstand with the Force as he murmured “Miryir” before he yanked Nurls hard against his chest and plundered her mouth mercilessly. In response, she wrapped her tchin around his neck to keep him close and rubbed at his right tipped ear with the tip of that flexible appendage. That startled him, but at the same time he did like what she had done. He growled and rasped against her lips, his words a mere whispering of air “Girl very clever.” His right hand moved to bury itself into her scalp as his black claws dug into the back of her head bloodlessly. He returned to passionately kissing her while his left hand moved of its own accord to rake down her side with his claws lightly until he reached her buttocks and grasped her right ass cheek tightly, digging in with his claws. He brought the pot of chocolate dip to him with the Force and dribbled a small amount directly into her mouth. Their mouths came together to share and savor the bitter sweet taste as their tongues dueled each other. His hand roamed up to her breast and started tweaking the nipple until it was pebble hard and erect. She made a lot of noise that sounded like she was highly pleased and wanted more.

He reached again for the pot, with his hand this time, and twisted sideways so he could dribble some more of that sauce on the nipple. Then he bent his head and swiped at the cherrilet straining for attention with his rough tongue until there was no trace remaining, then he started nibbling and suckling at the tit until her back had quite thoroughly arched and she was whimpering for more. He chuckled throatily and remembering how Nurls had liked his playing with her little mound down there, he slathered the last of the chocolate in that region. Just as well that Twi'lek had no body hair, it made cleaning up that much easier. Her tchin had released him as soon as she realized what he was up to, or would be up to shortly, and moaned in anticipation. For a brief moment he wondered if he should make her wait, then he decided against it. He really didn't want to wait himself either. He scraped his teeth all the way down from her cherrilet and paused just north of her very private area. He could quite easily scent the quite thoroughly arousal wafting from her. He took a few moments to merely savor the scent of it all, his nostrils flaring widely as his head hovered a scant few inches from the deliciously smelling center of the woman he would be bedding shortly. He knew that she was about ready but he wanted to pluck more notes on the taunt strings on the finely tuned harp that was the Twi'lek woman half beneath him.

Finally, after Nurls seized the initiative and shoved his head downwards to end what must have felt like an impasse to her while Thravang was merely enjoying inhaling the smell of her, only then did he finally bend his attention to the new task at hand. Namely, teasing her with tantalizing near licks of his tongue on her chocolate covered clit. Just barely there pressure. He reached out and trailed a claw across the length of her labia, down one side and up the other side. She gasped and spread her legs wider to accommodate him better. He then pressed his mouth to her clit and nipped at her there, while his claw split the labia open and ran a dark maroon knuckled across the glistening wetness contained there. After a few minutes of working her clit with his teeth and tongue, he slipped a finger into her. That got him a buck of her hips and a whimpered pleading. From the scent of her, she certainly was wet enough. He shifted his weight as he slid his left leg over her leg to press against her as he worked his way back up to her mouth with his tongue and teeth. A lick here and there, a scrape of teeth here and there.

By the time he got to her mouth, she was already sliding herself up and down his thigh and making a high pitched whine in her throat. Her tchin wrapped itself around his neck and she yanked his face to hers with her left hand. She shifted her leg and managed to wiggle it out from under him and wrapped it around his waist. She didn't care that his back was still strongly ridged at his waist. She wanted him in her like now.

He took the very strong hint and paused just a moment before he positioned himself at her entrance. She let out an eager whimper of anticipation and then he jammed himself into her in one swift fluid motion. She did not have special considerations to be taken into account, so he could just enter her how he wanted.

“Ohmystars yes yes yes.” she groaned aloud in ecstasy as her inner core expanded to accommodate his hard staff, and as his weight settled on her. All three hundred pounds of muscle and bone. He half growled at the feel of being inside her, long at last. Then he began rocking back and forth as he ravished her mouth with his tongue, his right hand on the back of her head, and his left hand digging into her ass. All too rapidly, he had reduced her to nothing but a wantonly wiggling mass of yellowy chartreuse who scratched at him any place she could reach with her hands as he drove himself into her deep and hard. Not that he minded. Her puny fingernails couldn't make any dents in his tough skin, thanks to his heritage. Now and then, he would break off the fierce kissing to suck on her neck hard. He rammed her again and again until she was grovelling mindlessly and yet he was nowhere near completion. Growling in intense frustration, even as she scattered around him, because he wasn't having his own nova, he stilled himself and waited out her internal dissolution until she was aware of him and their surroundings. He ran his claws down her tchun to make sure she was focused on him, and gestured to her to turn over as he withdrew from her completely “Something else I want try,” he rasped.

“Anything for you, Big Red,” Nurls all but purred. She turned herself over until she was on her knees and hands, with her legs spread wide.

He gave a half growl of appreciation as he bent his head to run his tongue over her several times as he lapped at the juices that had leaked with his clawed hand resting on her back and his other hand wrapped around one thigh. When he had finally enough, he straightened as he had to keep her up with the Force since her knees were threatening to buckle. He lined himself up with her entrance, and shoved in with a powerful jerk of his hips until he was flush with her, completely within her. Now her knees did buckle from the pressure of him rubbing against her core, but the Force he employed kept her up.

Off to the side he could hear Yrada murmuring that there were advantages to fucking a Jedi Knight as she sat in a chair with her wine as she sipped from the goblet in her hand.

He closed his eyes as he growled in sheer excitement before he started fucking her hard. Each thrust in that new position wrought a sound out of her mouth, whether it was a whimper, scream or gasp. He wrapped a deep maroon arm around her waist, and his right hand started wandering over what he could reach of her body until it found her clit and started working that sensitive mound of flesh. He pounded her until she melted into the bed and exploded in spasms and wordless screaming of fulfillment. He crested her orgasm to his own as he keened his release to the air. Then he slowly sank to the bed on top of her. He only used the Force just enough to keep his weight from pushing her into the mattress. When his breathing finally returned to normal, and his member finally became flaccid enough to pull out, he withdrew from the completely satiated woman. He sat on the bed for a moment before he side eyed Yrada with a shake of his head “No more tonight.”

He Force lighted Nurls to one side of the bed, crawled to the middle of the bed, and punched the pillow until it was to his liking before he settled in. He pulled the sheet and blanket up with another use of the Force and quickly fell asleep. Yrada finished her wine and snuggled up to his sleeping form under the sheet and blanket. In a matter of a few moments, there were three soundly asleep figures in the crimson colored bed with both women snuggled up to the big male in the middle.

 

**** The next morning ****

 

Thravang was dreaming that something was licking him, and that it was an uxibeast from Tython that was licking him.... where the great shaggy uxibeast bull had no business licking. He came awake with a yell and opened his eyes only to find two startled Twi'lek ladies licking his hard staff and fondling his balls. They had been taking turns, and he blearily peered at the chrono to see that it was about the crack of dawn, but there were no windows in this room, since this was underground and hidden away.

He sat up partially on his elbows and gazed at Nurls and Yrada with an uplifted eyeridge as he pointed a finger at both “Asleep, I thought you two to be.”

Yrada giggled as she playfully poked him in the belly “We were sleeping, but you kept humping me with that hard staff of yours between my legs. Nurls had to help me turn you over onto your back, you great lump of beast, and we decided to help you with that problem.”

“Then get on with it.” Thravang replied as he wiggled his left fingers in a gesture for them to continue.

“Yes, my lord.” Yrada replied saucily with a raised eyebrow and a wicked smile on her lips before she eagerly returned to what she was doing.

Thravang heard Nurls whisper to Yrada “Why do you call him that when he's a Jedi Knight?”

Yrada laughed around a mouthful of dark maroon cock in her mouth “He didn't object to that title back on Aeten, dear, but don't expect to get anything out of Big Red here. He's been very close mouthed about his people.”

Nurls giggled “Oh, we did get something out of him... several times.”

Yrada laughed at that word play and elbowed her partner in the side “And we'll do just that once more, dear.”

 

**** Later that morning ****

 

“Hey! Look at who just … hobbled in?”

“Look at them! They're wearing turtlenecks!”

“What? That's not typical of them. Let me see!”

“Bet you a hundred credits they had one hell of a night.”

“Not taking that bet. It's too obvious.”

 

There were snickering by the people gathered at tables sipping caf in the break room as the two agents slowly walked into the room, one step at a time. Both were clearly unable to walk normally with a stiff legged gait. As if they had ridden a very unruly stallion. Except that four legged stallions didn't exist on Coruscant.

“Hey ladies. Need pillows even to sit?” A male voice asked just as someone else sniggered.

Both ladies also wore quite well satisfied grins on their faces. A sympathetic female agent poured them both cups of caf.

“Hey! Not fair! You gotta tell us who. You've got to share the goods with us!”

There was a giggle from Nurls as Yrada grinned “Oh, it was … Doublemint.”

“Doublemint?” Another voice yelled “There's no agent by that name here!”

“Well that's his name now. It takes two to satisfy him, you see.”

“Think this Doublemint of yours will be open to other options?” A male agent asked with envy in his voice.

“I'll ask when he has a night to spare. No promises.” Yrada said before she sipped at her caf.

 

“YRADA'KELLA! NURLS YORKSIN! Report to my office immediately. You two are hours late!”

“Yes, Director. We'll... do our best to walk there.”