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Svata Dragoste

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  1. Even though his head felt like someone had filled it with wet sand, Svata looked up. With two blank, red orbs for eyes, most people would have seen a duros like Sarlacc as eerie and emotionless. Eyes were the windows to the soul after all, wasn't that what people said? So what did it way when someone painted over it with a fresh coat of scarlet? But...Svata saw the kindness there. In the crinkling at the edges of eyes, the smile lines on the face, the relaxed posture... Sarlaac was a good man. Maybe I'm asking too much to expect one big plan to fix the universe. Maybe the universe just needs a few more good men. Svata stood up, and a warmth spread through him as he smiled. "Alright, that sounds good." He cocked an eyebrow, and his grin turned cheeky. "Don't go losing now. Hate to have to explain that to the boys and girls back home." Heh...me winning. He drew his lightsaber hilt, leaving it off for the moment. Yeah right.
  2. As the Jensaarai ship flew through hyperspace, Svata stared out the viewport. The blue light played across his weathered features, making him seem washed out. Faded. Svata turned away, and his eyes met his teacher's. "Sarlaac...I had forgotten. I had forgotten what people were capable of." He shook his head. "Fear, pride, it all ends the same. We seek truth but...what are we supposed to do with it? Teach? They won't listen. Protect? The fight never ends." Leaning against the wall, he took out his saber and looked at the carvings on it. He remembered the rancor on Dathomir. "There's so much potential out there. And it keeps gettin wasted by folks who can't see past the shadows under their beds. What are we supposed to do?" He slumped, tired. "What are we even doing?"
  3. Svata opened his mouth to retort, but bit his knuckle instead and sat in silence. After several long minutes had passed and he had eaten a few bites and sipped from his canteen, he spoke. "We came here looking for a truth, can't really complain if it's not the one we expected." He looked up at Telperiën. "What your people have gone through...I can't imagine. And I don't mean that as some polished sewage huckster spiel meant to smooth things over. I honestly can't imagine what...this..." he said, gesturing at the wasteland around him, "would do to a person. To a people. I also don't rightly understand what you're aiming for, or at least I can't envision it clear enough to make sense of it. What will your paradise look like when its grown back to how you see it?" He shook his head. "So understand where I'm coming from when I say... ...you all scare me. And I'm truly afeared that this story of yours isn't going to have a happy ending." He ran his hand through his hair. "I could be wrong of course. I find I usually am to some degree about most things." He grinned. "By the way. I always thought those rancors of yours were slow, plodding brutes. All claw and no brain. Turns out that was another thing I was wrong about." He chucked to himself as he rubbed the bruises no doubt forming on his ribs from the beast's grip earlier. "So I can successfully say this trip has been a learning experience."
  4. Jorus grinned around his cigarra, and keyed his own comm system. "Numbers 1 thru 4, go screw up." On cue, four antique Z-10 Seeker-class scout ships rocketed forward, accelerating to attack speed...and then kept accelerating. By the time they were within 1000 meters of the convoy, they were at the breakneck pace you'd expect of a ship trying to cross stars without a hyperdrive, and at risk of colliding with the train of freighters if anyone so much as turned a degree in the next few seconds. Jorus leaned back, propped his feet up on the dash of his own ship, and waited for several moments before breaking the silence. "...and...now." Retro thrusters, welded to the sides of the ships in ugly clusters, roared to life on each side. The ships strained and squealed in protest at the sudden deceleration, but the old scout vessels had been built tough. Even so it wasn't enough. Cables fired from the undersides of the craft that latched onto the nearest freighters, but the ships were going too fast to match their prey's slower speed, and the suddenly linked ships were wrenched off course and began to spin wildly. The cables detached as the scout vessels rocketed off to circle around for another try...now with the full attention of the escort on them. Jorus chuckled. "Classic two man spacer pocket. Big guy makes a show of robbing you, and while you're trying to make him back off with whatever you've got handy, the little guy takes your credit chits. Professionals will hold their position to fight off pirates...but when someone insults you by doing it poorly...well that gets a special kind of angry out of old pilots." As if following his direction, fighters began peeling off from the convoy to pursue the scout craft rather than wait for them to make another run.
  5. Svata would not hurt a girl for this lesson. Not after that scream. Right or wrong, teaching moment or not, it wasnt him. And he'd sooner feed himself piecemeal to a slashrat than burn that girl to learn a trick. He listened, but did not follow the instruction. He'd do this his own way. The girl's trail was readily apparent. In the ruined wasteland, her footsteps were evident on crushed scrub brush and churned dust. Svata followed her at a jog. Two hours later Svata groaned as he created another hill and the girl was still nowhere in sight. Her trail was still clear, as it seemed she wasnt trying to hide it. For this exercise, he supposed that made sense. But it did mean he was going slower as he kept stopping to find Mark's of her passing. He'd wasted a good ten minutes when the trail of something big had crossed her path and sent careening off on a new course, only to double back when he realized she likely didnt have claws. The lady was sprinting for goodness sakes! These witches were tough, but how long could she- His thoughts were interrupted by a faint sound, something foreign to the desolate landscape and all too familiar to someone who'd fathered 3 daughters. A girl crying. He saw her, curled in the shade of a brown, dead bush. She was shaking. By the Force she was actually shaking. Svata moved up to her and plopped down next to her. She flinched away, but her heaving breaths and sweat slicked skin told him she had no strength to run. Svata plopped a canteen in front of her. "You're dehydrated. Drink up before you pass out." Her wide eyes, contracted to near mad pinpricks, stared at him like she was watching a snake curling to strike. "Girl, I'm not carrying you back." In the middle of his sentence, she snatched the canteen and slid roughly away, until she was a solid 10 feet from him. She guzzled the water. "You've got to be kidding. This might make you strong girl, but..." He stopped, at a loss for words. Not my world. Not my way. ...still feels wrong "Come on, let's get..." He paused. The girl's gaze had shifted to his left, but her face had only tightened. The crunch of dirt, faint but unmistakable, made his head turn. A rancor looked down from the nearby rise. "...Quiet for a big fella, aintcha?" The beast, a scarred, wiry thing, stared at him. No subtlety, no hesitation, no fear. An animal that knew in its genes that it was unchallengeable. Then it looked at the girl. Svata kept his voice even. "Girl, I know you're tired, but if those witches trained you to push yourself, then you better start remembering those lessons..." The rancor rumbled out something that might have been a growl and took a step forward. "cause this here's a surprise test." Svata started slowly moving to one side. The rancor stopped, tracking him with its eyes. Then it shifted back to the sweaty witchling... with the blood-soaked hands. "Girl...run." She didnt move. "Run!" Svata shouted. The rancor's head snapped back to Svata as the girl sprang up and sprinted away, clutching Svata's canteen. The rancor lurched towards Svata, its rumbling steps signaling that it was done stalking. "Fast for a big guy too huh?!" Svata yelled, half in denial and half to keep the predator's attention on him. He sprinted to the rancor's right, doing his best to keep it circling. All that muscle, bone, and teeth didnt turn well, but if it got the chance to charge then Svata was a dead man. His mind raced on a mixture of adrenaline and denial that this was how he died. He was not about to end his life in some rancor's stomach on a ruined planet because of an object lesson from a sun-baked witch reminiscing about the good old days. The rancor unfortunately disagreed. Svata was a hair too slow, and while the creature's close-set feet and top heavy bulk kept it from quickly pivoting, its arms had the range to make up for it. The back of a claw clipped Svata's shoulder as he sprinted, sending him into a lurching step that became a tumble. He scrambled to his feet and scurried over a small dune a split second before the rancor's claw came back to carve three furrows into the dirt where he'd been sprawling. Svata had nothing that could even scratch this thing. The Force... Really, really hope this does something to animals. Svata became a part of the moment. Unfortunately, as he suspected, the technique only hid him from the abilities of Force-sensitives. Not mundane eyes...or noses. The rancor shrieked in triumph as it stepped forward and loomed over the dune, staring down at Svata. It was hungry, and pleased. Svata could feel it. He could feel it. A crazy, probably stupid thought struck Svata. Too simple to be inspiration, but Svata would settle for desperation. He reversed the technique. Instead of concealing himself by making himself indistinguishable from his surroundings in the Force, he opened himself up and forced every ounce of him out. It was like stepping into a cold shower. He felt vulnerable, exposed, and panicked all at once. But the rancor stopped. It was confused at first by the inklings of Svata's deluge it was sensing. But then little bits began to stick. Svata feeding his first son as he wailed at the universe for being too much for a baby to handle. The rancor propping its mewling cub onto it's back as it cried for food the mother couldn't find. Svata showing his daughter how to heat nerf horn to make carving it easier. The mother rancor watching as the cub tore the throat from a dead animal and screaming in victory as if it had killed it itself. Svata wrapping the broken arm on his third son after he'd decided to return a dug's insult. The mother disemboweling some scavenging reptile that had gotten too close to her cub and taken a snap at it. The rancor shook its head and screamed again, but this time in rage. It didn't want this. It didnt want to know its food. This thing was food. Food! It's claws dropped around Svata and closed. Svata staring at the bodies of his family. He was all that was left. The mother mewled over her unmoving cub, her voice a sorrowful mimicry of it's now silent cries. It had starved. The mother hadn't been able to find enough food. The roar of the rancor was deafening. It hadn't wanted to remember that. Sorrow, rage, and raw pain laced the rancor's cry, and Svata felt every bit of it as it mingled with his own pain. In that brief moment the two creatures understood each other. The rancor stepped back, shaking its head as if to dislodge something, and it stared down at Svata once more. He had no control over it. He'd only offered it truth. The decision it made would be its own. The rancor growled, pure frustration evident even to Svata. Then...it turned away. Resigned, it strode back into the wasteland, hunting once more. Svata could sense in some lingering connection that it did not know what Svata was, bit it did know he wasn't food. Either it had forgotten the girl or left her trail alone for Svata's sake, because it trundled off in the opposite direction. He didn't know which, but was grateful for either. ____________________________ Svata staggered back into camp. "I failed your gorram test," he grunted, before plopping down onto the dirt.
  6. Svata paused briefly, food halfway to his mouth, at the words 'for sport'. Then, he completed the bite and kept his face neutral. Seek truth He palmed one of his small throwing knives from inside his clothes. With a moment and a quick breath, he put the tip of the knife against his upper left arm and drew it down an inch. Red trailed behind, and he turned the knife so that its flat caught the pooling blood. When it had spread almost to the small knife's edges, he carefully drew the knife away, lifted a dishcloth from the counter with his tail, and pressed it against the bleeding. He sheepishly smiled at one of the stoic students. "Sorry miss. Ain't nothing personal." He lifted his hands with his free hand and rubbed the flat of the blade against each of the palms, streaking them red.
  7. The ramp lowered, and standing at the top was Svata. Dressed in the same colorful garb from the night before (albeit more ruffled), the old ryn yawned and ran his hand through his hair. "Star lag. I'll never get...Never mind. Guess it's time to get to work." He put his fingers to his mouth and whistled back into the ship. "Sarlaac! Time to go!" As he shouted, he silently noted that Sarlaac was probably already up. In truth, Svata had been as well. His priorities just put breakfast and a thermos of caf above personal grooming. Gesturing dramatically, he waved the visitors onboard. "Care for a flight? Unless you were planning on walking?" He paused for a moment, eyes turned upwards in deep thought while his tail swished behind him. When he lowered his face, he wore a brilliant white smile. "Where are my manners? Breakfast? We've got a fresh pot of caf. The good stuff, straight outta Garqi, not that powdered bantha dropping they crank out in the Inner Rim." He turned and hobbled back onto the ship, legs still stiff from a rough night's sleep on a cot. Well...that and a few too many decades spent walking on them. Real smart Svata. You couldn't have joined a Sabacc league or written your memoirs, could you? No, you had to join a kriffing warrior order. "C'mon, I've got this trick for making fruit preserves taste like...something besides fruit preserves."
  8. Svata listened in silence, face solemn. In the quiet that followed the young cathar's speech, Svata waited a long moment before speaking. "Now now now, don't go putting words in my mouth. I don't know what bent your life outta shape. I wouldn't presume to know. And I certainly wouldn't say your life experiences have no meaning. But I've heard this particular speech of yours before. It was wishful nonsense when I said it, and I suspect it's the same for you. Like a spice-jacked kid saying every hit is a choice, and they could stop when they want." Svata stretched. "But there's no need to listen to an old man who just doesn't get it. You do what you want, and I hope you live long enough to learn something from it. Let me know what you figure out. I'm curious if you'll make it where you're looking to go. And to answer your question. If me talking gets you to kill me out of anger, then yes, anger makes you a fool."
  9. Svata's eyes closed as Telperiën began her tale. Cross-legged, he sat down before the fire and bowed his head. Still as stone, he listened. If there was one thing he had learned in all his years, both before joining the Jensaarai and after, it was the weight of a story. His eyes opened as she finished. No hint of a smile crossed his face, and in an instant he seemed decades older. Wrinkles made shallow by his ever-present grin deepened. His hands, usually animated, now sat folded in his lap, gnarled and spotted. "You got it in one," he said quietly, bare speaking over the crackling of the fire. "Hate's a worm that burrows in your gut and leaves you screaming. Only a fool holds it in his hand and thinks he's the master." He looked out across the landscape, then up to the stars. "But anger makes fools of us all." As he lowered his head to meet the group, his old smile returned along with his spirit. "Sorry, hope we didn't interrupt. Figured we should stop by. Be polite and all." He flicked his hand to the side of his head in a brief, informal salute. "Svata. Don't really have any other name worth getting excited about."
  10. "Oh trust me, I know enough to know I don't know anything about this planet." Svata turned his head, taking in the wasteland. "The stories they tell about this place...Spacers know that there's something different here. Something that don't welcome outsiders. Now that I'm here...yeah, I reckon I can feel it." He inhaled through his nose. "The place is alive. Not like some vibrant green world like crazy Felucia but more like...can't describe it. A wind? A sound?" He shook his head, then snapped his fingers as the right descriptor presented itself. "Like a breath! This place...it breathes in the Force, all quiet but constant." He frowned. "Can't tell if it's sleeping or just weak. Not that we want to cross it either way." He noted with a start that Sarlaac had begun concealing the pair, and he'd missed it. Guess that was a marker of the difference in skill between them. "That's a different trick from the one you taught me, isn't it? I know you're there, but only because I've got eyes. Handy." Svata straightened his colorful clothes and ran a hand through his white hair to smooth it back. "Now how about we go be polite and introduce ourselves?"
  11. As Svata's feet touched down on the edge of the orbital platform, he let himself sink back into the "now". He was a part of this moment, indistinguishable at a casual glance from anything else. Sure, these platforms were supposed to be unguarded and without crew...but Svata had heard that one before. A few silent moments passed as he pried the hatch control panel off, a minute as he exploited a backdoor in the obsolete system, and he was in. No telltale whoosh of air accompanied the door opening. So the inside wasn't pressurized. Good sign so far. Quietly, his mind half awake as he remained "invisible", he propelled himself down the weightless halls. Bits of electronics lay exposed where the plating had been removed or rusted away. Mechanical components stuck out at odd angles where they'd clearly been patched on. Whatever this platform had been originally, it clearly had bee customized for things that didn't need gravity or air. Svata got his answer as he rounded a corner and got a view into the control room. Floating through, numerous arms manipulating multiple panels, was an Imperial probe droid, or at least what had originally been an Imperial probe droid. Sections of plating had been replaced with different materials and colors. In some places it looked like it had been spot welded together. Extra antennae stuck out from every angle, making the thing look something like a junkyard sea urchin. Photoreceptors of different colors spun and reoriented constantly all across its "head". Svata held perfectly still for almost a minute. After he was sure the droid had looked straight at him several times, he crept forward. He half propelled, half crawled along the ceiling, staying as far away from the droid's shifting mass of arms and rigid antennae as possible. Soon, he hung directly above the mechanical creature, but it was blocking his reach to the dataport he needed. Frowning, he reached out with the Force and tugged on one of the exposed electronics down the hall. It sparked as the circuitboard shattered, and while it couldn't make a sound the sudden, dim flash was enough to catch the precise machine's attention. Svata held his breath until the droid was well and truly focused on the anomaly before reaching down and plugging in the data drive. Several long seconds passed before the indicator light turned green and Svata pulled out the drive. The droid never even twitched as Svata crawled back along the ceiling above it. _______________________________________________________________________________________ "Well," Svata said back on the ship with a grin, "that wasn't so much of a chore."
  12. Svata grimaced, taking deep breaths to calm his rising irritation. "Blur the lines that separate me, huh? Open up my mind and body to it." Svata's tail twitched. "I gotta mix. Like crowd walking. I gotta smell the room and wear it. So come on you old pudding brain, what's the first step of mixing anywhere? You gotta wait. You gotta listen. You gotta watch. You gotta be...intensely." Svata inhaled, struggling to both focus and let go. He needed to relax, let it come in its own time. He started by counting the smells. Oil...some sort of sweet sauce...meat...maybe someone's lunch...old, dirty leather...disinfectant... His breathing came slow and even, dropping to almost imperceptibility. His mind stopped sorting stimuli. It flowed. He felt the warmth on his bare arms, then the weight of his scarf, then he heard the low hum of a crewmember. He simply flowed. He couldn't say when he'd tapped into the Force. It was like...playing a part. Sinking into a role. Eyes lidded, Svata stood. He saw, but he didn't. If he truly saw, wouldn't that mean he could be seen? If he thought, would they hear? Svata walked in a daze through the bridge. No one glanced his way. A crewman walked right at him, then absentmindedly stepped aside. Svata thought, for just a second, there was a flicker of something in the man's' eyes. But then it was gone. Svata inserted his datadrive, and waited. No, waiting was something, an action, a distinction. Svata wasn't anything like that. Svata simply was. When Svata emerged from the bridge, data drive in hand, he took a deep breath, a real breath. Everything snapped for a split second, and Svata was back. "Well...that was...wow."
  13. Svata laughed. He liked this one. With spacers like him, you always got one of three types. The naive starters who looked at the galaxy like a planet hoppin game, ready to catapult themselves by speeder bike into a gundark nest for credits and glory. The tough-as-boots veterans who'd seen some kriffing nonsense and wore it like a crusty beggar wearing an old coat. And then you had the salty star-runners who'd crossed from one end of the galaxy to the other and seen so much craziness that they looped right back around to laughing at the universe. Svata liked the second kind least. "Not so sure about breaking them. And if it comes to that, you better hope its not by hand." His grin widened. "But if it's a fight you're looking for, I'd be happy to kill some time."
  14. "I really...really hope you don't mean that literally," Svata chuckled. "Well, you shouldn't have to wait long. Sarlaac isn't the kind of Jensaarai to let a student sit on their hands. I reckon you'll get put through your paces. He'll..." Svata paused, stopping in his tracks as something occurred to him. His tail swished once, twice, then he started walking again, a pondering expression on his face. "Hey...hope you don't mind me asking, but does it ever get annoying to you when people complain about pain and such? I mean, I imagine it's something like a blind man listening to everyone constantly gripe about the bright light, or a droid listening to his master constantly bellyache about how hungry he is. Something between background noise and consistently insensitive. Ah, here it is." He strode up the ship's' ramp and punched a few keys. The door whooshed open, and the faint smell of recycled air puffed out into Svata's face. "Anyway, take a minute to shake the dust off your boots. Defender Sarlaac should be back by now, or at least will be soon."
  15. Svata laughed. "That's a new one! I'm not that short am I? Heheh. No, I'm a Ryn. Handy tip, if there nose looks like a flute, then they're probably a Ryn." He grinned. Blowing out his lips, Svata dug his hands into his pockets as he sauntered along. "Well...Sarlaac is what you might call a true Jensaarai. A true believer in the ideals. And if call him slow and old, please do it when I'm in the other room. He might be the kind of guy to take that as an invitation for an "object lesson", and while you don't feel pain I can assure it ain't fun for the rest of us. As for what we're being sent to do...something regarding the Jedi I think. I'll let our master explain it." "Hey, if you don't mind fighting an old spacer like me, I'm good to scrap. Just don't break my nose and don't pull my tail. Seriously, a broken nose for a Ryn is a real hassle."
  16. Svata stepped out onto the Raka Nwul and breathed in. After a lifetime of breathing the recycled air of old cargo freighters and junk ships, it always hit him how good it was to breathe fresh air on a spacecraft. Ithorians were something else. "Alright," he muttered to himself. "Pick up a new apprentice. Sreth...Bones? Yeah, that was it, the Tognath." Svata hadn't met too many Tognath in his time, but the ones he had run into had all made an impression. Tognath were tough buggers, and not someone you wanted to get into a fight with unless you were a hundred meters away with a rifle. An endoskeleton and exoskeleton, combined with an immunity to pain, made them pretty memorable when things got hairy. Svata recalled one Tognath he'd seen in a bar fight. An Abyssin had sucker slammed the smaller guy with a cargo chain and snapped his leg. The look on the creature's one eye was one Svata would never forget when the Tognath not only didn't go down but hobbled right at the thug looking more pissed than anything else. It was about that point that the Abyssin discovered Tognaths grow up under significantly higher gravity than most other species, and are a lot stronger than they look. The next two things the Abyssin discovered was what the wiring above the ceiling tiles looked like and that synthetic glass shards in your face hurt no matter how quick you regenerate. "Well this should be fun." Svata wandered across the ship, without much of a plan in mind. Truth be told he just liked walking, and would take any excuse to do it. Wandering, meandering, ambling, it was all the same to him. Just so long as he got to keep moving he was a happy man. He chuckled as he remembered Parami shouting at him in a rare moment of pure irritation that she was going to nail his tail to his left foot if he didn't stop pacing around their little ship. His winding path took around the outer edges of the ship, and he nodded and waved at the other Jensaarai and residents of the big ship. Eventually, he heard someone pounding away at something, with the quiet but intense grunts that only came from training and training hard. He rounded the corner, and there was the Tognath, finishing a routine with...honestly some damned impressive power and control. That man would be a force to be reckoned with in a fight. "Yeowch! You got Sun-Dragon? I've heard horror stories about that guy. Word has it he skinned his last apprentice who gave him lip. Problem was it was a Givin." Svata grinned, mustache poofed up in a silly parody of the refined, mature elder. "Doubt a word of it's true, but the fact that the story is going around at all..." Shaking his head, Svata extended his hand. "Sorry, manners. Svata, apprentice of the Sarlacc. If you're Sreth, then I imagine I'm here to pick you up."
  17. Svata watched, dumbfounded, at the display his teacher put on. The whirling violet blades always seemed a hair's breadth from slicing the duros in half, but they never touched him. The old ryn looked down at his own lightsaber. He breathed in, and out. He activated the dual blades. Golden-yellow light glinted off of Svata's bits of jewelry. The two beams of light hummed and blurred as Svata slowly turned them. He grasped the handle first as he would a staff, and immediately saw the problem. The hilt was too short, and if he treated it like a staff he'd slice his own legs off. The weight, as Sarlacc has said, was off too. Every bit of muscle memory and experience Svata had conflicted with the weapon his eyes were seeing. Very, very slowly, he brought it around in a careful twirl. He cried out then growled as he singed his hip in the process. His footwork was wrong, he needed to find the right stance if he was going to swing this around. He closed his eyes and called to mind the lessons the Jensaarai had taught him on lightsaber forms. The best form for a dual bladed lightsaber... His eyes opened and he smiled, letting his feet move his body into a relaxed position. Form VI. He grinned. A relaxed form that combines bits from the previous forms to create a single, balanced style. Balance from the experience of masters past. He shook his head, chuckling. Perfect for me. He swung forward again, more confident, and struck Sarlacc's lightsaber. The blow was clumsy and the blade slipped and sparked along his master's steady blade. Svata dropped back and tried again. And again. And again. Hours passed. Svata went through the basic stances and attack routines of Form VI, repeating them over and over again. He found his tail lashing out to give him balance as he overstepped time and again. He learned to keep his eagerness in check. Form VI was a style that emphasized opportunities, not aggression. As Svata relaxed more, he found his bladework flowed in an easy rhythm. Time and again he saw chances for improvised attacks, tricks, and Force manipulation. His double-bladed lightsaber was ideal for the balanced style, the constant spinning and easy momentum of the form making Svata's attacks seem as much a performance as combat. Yet Sarlacc easily deflected every blow Svata sent at him. The Defender's speed was unmatched compared to Svata's rhythmic attacks. Eventually, Svata tired. Breathing hard, he grinned at his master. "How was that?"
  18. Svata considered. "I agree. This...this does not feel right." He shook his head. "When stuff starts making your skin crawl, that's a good sign the universe is telling you to move along." He held up his lightsaber and ran his fingers across the simple carvings. Protector He smiled as he looked back to Sarlaac. "I think it's high time I learned how to use this properly."
  19. Svata frowned, bowing his head as the weight of what his teacher spoke of hit him. "Destroy them...kill them all..." A sigh escaped him, and with it seemed to go a great deal of his strength. "That's...I'm not going to lie, that's more than I was expecting. War makes people hard and sharp, but for the Jedi to order the deaths of others..." Svata shook his head. "It goes against everything I know of their order." Svata rested his head in his hand. The light that had held the galaxy together for 10,000 years was commanding people to submit? The keepers of peace preached violence? The Sith had brought darkness to the galaxy, but was this fire what was needed to push them back? A fire that burned anyone unlucky enough to be caught in its path? "..............heh. Heheh. Hahahaha!" Svata's chuckle turned into a full-blown laugh. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I know that's inappropriate. It's just...something popped into my head and..." Svata's hand clamped over his mouth as he struggled to hold back his snickering. "Heh..Sarlacc...heheh...Let me tell you a story, and you tell me what you think after. I'll respect your decision, whatever it is." Svata sat down on the floor, and for a moment he was back with his family. Looking up at the wise duros only made his smile warmer. I guess I am back. Svata cleared his throat, and his fingers brushed against his nose as he began to speak, his words in line with the low, quiet strains of a slow, old song. He talked as he played, and as Uncle Meska had taught him, the words and the music flowed together. The tempo swung up, almost feverishly fast and high. "Svata was a screw up. He was a disgrace. He put his family in danger and brought them nothing but dishonor and pain. His anger at the world, at the harshness it gave him for nothing he'd ever done, justified his actions to him. If the universe would do nothing but take from him, then how could he live but to take back from it?" The song changed, dropping to a lower, mournful minor key, slower and quieter until it was almost inaudible. "But in his selfishness, anger, and fear, he did not see the harm he caused. He thought his family fools, or even cowards who clung to their name like a scared child hides under the covers. But it was him who was hiding." The tune shifted again, this time slowly rising and intensifying into a major key, hope and rising goodness evident in every note. "He was made to see though. They made him open his eyes. With hard grips and loving hearts, his family showed him what was in their name. They showed him his legacy...and what he was doing to it. The regret he felt then was overwhelming, and it choked his anger and hate from his soul. He turned around. He changed, and he brought honor and peace to his family. To his..." Svata stopped mid-note. After a few deep breaths, he quietly said, "...his legacy." Svata chuckled again, and raised his head to match Sarlacc's gaze. "That's the abridged version, but the point is that the Jedi are in a bad place. You see that, I see that, and I believe it's our duty to make the Saarai-Kaar see that. But...but I have so many stories up here," he said, leaning forward excitedly and tapping his temple. "So many stories of the Jedi, Ten millennia of peace and hope brought by these heroes, by these selfless men and women who gave their entire lives to protect a galaxy they would never truly live in. And that is a legacy that doesn't go away, no matter how much the Sith try to suppress it or the current batch lose sight of it. Maybe the Jedi are lost, but I...I have hope. I believe the Jedi will come back, bright as ever before. Maybe the Jensaarai will need to show them, or maybe there's dozens of Jedi right now making their voices heard." Svata shrugged. "Or maybe I'm a sentimental coot who doesn't know what he's talking about." A grin split his face. "Anyway, that's my take on this Defender. I agree that we should tell the Saarai-Kaar, but I also don't think we should give up on the Jedi yet. But...what do you think?"
  20. Svata listened, and as he did he remained one with the Force. Sarlaac's words, Svata's memories, the melody, it all blended together into something primal, indescribable, and beautiful. In the bowl, the bolt moved, slowly and hesitantly at first, then quicker and with more precision. Soon, it elevated out into the air, and turned slow somersaults around Svata's head. As the bolt spun, Svata grew more and more accustomed to the Force. He could almost see the purpose of it all, a maddening order just beyond his comprehension. Was this what all Force-users felt? No, not Dark Siders. No one could feel this and act as they did. They sought to control the Force. They were delusional, like a man who believed that because he shielded the sky with his hand he had put out the stars. Svata sunk deeper into the Force, and he glimpsed more with every layer. Finally, he saw the connection between himself and Sarlaac. It was a tiny thing, fragile and ephemeral, but it shone like silver in the darkness. The bolt orbited faster as Svata leaned down, eyes rolled back in his head but his sight never clearer. The thread was a thing of purity, light from nothing yet as tangible as durasteel. Where it joined with Svata's spirit, it frayed in a dozen directions, hopelessly tangled but slowly weaving itself back together. Where it joined with Sarlaac it was strong...but dim. Like a shadow was passing over it. Coming out of the trance as if coming up for air, the bolt dropped to the floor, and Svata's eyes focused on the duros. "Something..." He shook his head. "Is something wrong, Defender Sarlacc?"
  21. The washer zipped past Svata's head, but the old ryn's sight wasn't focused on the physical. Eyes half-lidded, he sunk into the Force, humming a tuneless melody. He called up memories of Uncle Meska, the hunched codger drilling the clan's history into a surly teenager. The man's voice, rough and clear, echoed in his mind, and Svata felt the legacy of the Dragoste's stretching out into time, as he had back then. Like standing on a mountain, he embraced the feeling, and embraced the Force. All things were connected. All things were everlasting, because all things existed within the Force. "I am an echo in the Force," Svata said, voice so quiet he could barely hear himself. "I am a ripple, an offspring...I am a shadow." He stretched out his hand and felt the depth of the Force. It had no bottom. It was eternity. In the face of that, Svata had no power. How could he even think to control something like that. But he would not control it. He would do as he had done as the Keeper of the Dragoste's. He would channel that eternity. In the bowl, a bolt shivered. Then, slowly, it turned, clinking as the hexagonal head rolled along the ceramic. Svata's humming sped up, the jumble of notes taking on a new cadence. The bolt, quivering violently and painfully sluggish, rose out of the bowl. Seconds passed, before Svata's song stopped, and the bolt dropped back into the bowl. Sweat beaded on his brow, but the fierce smile on his face was defiant. "Got it."
  22. Svata strolled in, and stopped as he saw his teacher's armor less than pristine. His eyes crinkled at the edges as he fought to keep from smiling. "So...guess you don't mind fighting dirty." Svata laughed, then awkwardly his voice petered out. "Yeah...that one was pretty bad. Anyway, no casualties on ours. Independent contractors and some old droids." Svata didn't ask if Sarlaac had had any casualties. He knew how professional and dedicated the duros could be, and no one on his team would have gotten overzealous. He frowned. "This isn't going to be easy. We hit a major hyperspace lane. We hit it a few more times and the Sith are going to respond how they usually respond to threats." He sat down and leaned his head against the wall, his age suddenly draped over him like a shroud. "Overwhelmingly." His eyes closed, and he took one...two...three deep breaths. Then his eyes opened, alight with the fire and vigor that the Jensaarai had given back to the old man. "So...where next?"
  23. Svata and the three crewmen volunteers got to their feet in the darkened hold of the ship. Jara, the human engineer, immediately walked to the wall and hooked up her datapad into the wall-jack. Kon and Veremo, the two fresh Pau'an apprentices and brothers, drew their gleaming blaster pistols and moved to cover Jara, somehow making crouching behind boxes look elegant and refined like every waking moment of a Pau'an's life. Svata, for his part, drew his blocky heavy blaster pistol and made a slow circuit of the room. "Do you think this will be worth taking?" Kon asked, never taking his eyes or blaster barrel off the cargo hold's single entrance. "Not about profit, it's about the message. And don't talk unless you have to." "I'm in," Jara called. Svata rolled his eyes and walked back to the grubby, scruffy middle-aged woman. "What are we looking at for personnel?" "Ship's records only call out two crewmen, the pilot and the engineer." "Droid guards then." "That'd be my guess. Can't access them through this connection. Maybe from the cockpit?" "Don't bother. On a ship like this, the droids will be under independent orders and closed off from transmissions. Standard wartime security." "So then we..." Svata's lopsided grin gleamed inside his bulky helmet. "We convince them to give us what we want the normal way." Kon and Veremo shared a look out of the corner of Svata's eye, unreadable. "Come on. Let's get to-" The door whooshed open, and a fusillade of blaster fire cut through the air. There was a moment of silence, then a clank as the unfortunate droid who'd opened it fell to the floor, it's club tumbling from its hand. Jara peeked out from behind one of the crates. Svata hadn't even seen her move. "Is...is that a police droid?" "Repurposed GU-model looks like. Betting there's tons of these things lying in the rubble of Coruscant. If this is all they got, we're in good hands. But keep on guard. They might have KXs or worse on here." _______________________________________________________________________________________________ The creeping pace the quartet made through the hallways was only occasionally broken by blaster fire as another droid met its expiration date. So far they'd come across two more GUs, and gotten surprised by an OOM-model that had somehow managed to cram itself into a ventilation shaft before jumping out them with a pair of knives. The brothers had shown their training by elegantly dispatching it before it hit the ground. Jara frowned as she opened another locked door. "Kind of scrappy for a Sith security force, isn't it?" Svata shrugged. "Cheap. Not much else to say. Doesn't matter what galaxy you come from, the government always has cutbacks." Jara didn't look convinced, but pointed to the next door at the end of the hall. "There's the cockpit. We take that, we have control over this ship. We jettison the cargo to the interdictor's tractor beams, then bug out." Svata nodded, and turned to the brothers. Even as serious as Pau'ans usually looked, their faces were grim and stony. They likely thought what Svata did. If you were going to defend one room on this ship, it would be this one. The trio of Jensaarai apprentices approached the door, blasters ready, as Jara hooked her datapad up again and got to work. "Remember boys. We leave the crew alive." Two perfectly mirrored nods were his only acknowledgement. The door slid open, Jara fell back against the wall and as much behind cover as she could, the three apprentices dove into the room, coming up blasters ready. Cowering in front of them were two Bothans, one male adult and one younger girl with a belt of tools around her waist. Neither was armed, and both were terrified. Svata lowered his weapon, though the brothers looked less sure. "Put those down boys. These are independent contractors, not leatherjacks." Hesitantly, the two Pau'ans let their grips slacken, though they didn't holster their weapons. Svata turned back to the pair of Bothans, to find that the male pilot (a brother perhaps?) had moved to shield the younger engineer with his body. "Knock it off with the drama boy, we're not going to hurt you. We're just going to relieve you of your cargo and be on our way." Svata motioned for Jara to come in. She entered but kept her eyes on the Bothan duo as he hooked herself into the ship's console. "We..." the male started hesitantly, but his tone growing stronger with each word, "we need that cargo. If we don't deliver..." "Whatever chubby clerk you're signing off with will realize you didn't rob the glorious Sith when he sees the damage on your ship. Oh...sorry about that. I understand this is going to be a loss for you, but I'm guessing you don't even own this ship. Am I right?" The expression of a slashrat caught in a spotlight seemed stuck to the male's face, and in a confused tone he answered, "Right...right we run it for one of the imperial contractors." "There you see? Your contractor will cover the loss, not you. Call them up before you get anywhere and mention that you'll tell the Sith about the security they gave you for the ship. I'm guessing they don't want their dark lords to know their contractor was using recycled droids to guard their precious cargo. They'll eat the cost to keep you quiet, and you'll be on your way. Jara, you got it yet?" "Just...got it. Cargo is away." Svata turned back and gave a bow with a flourish of his tail. "Pleasure meeting you both. Have a safe trip." He activated his comm-link as the group walked away from the confused but relieved Bothans. "Hey, open a door for us, we're coming back. It looks like we got lucky on this ship. Hopefully Sarlaac didn't get the worse pick."
  24. Svata gave Sarlaac a lopsided grin, his whiskers bristling. In one hand he cradled his iron staff, hidden blades sheathed. In the other loosely dangled his heavy blaster pistol. The old ryn looked every bit the part of a rogue. "It'll all depend on who's onboard and what they're transporting, but if this shipment is worth taking...well, it's probably worth protecting. We can hope, but I'd be ready for droids or troopers. We probably won't need to worry too much about reinforcements, but with the rebels stepping up their attacks I wouldn't put it past the Sith to start instigating piracy policies. Ships patrolling just off the hyperlanes, that sort of thing. Sith can get pretty ruthless when they get pushed. I heard a story about a freighter transporting explosives, only for them to go off once they were boarded by pirates. Turned out they'd been shipping those bombs back and forth for weeks waiting for a pirate to take the bait." Svata shrugged. "In the end we can't control what they'll do, just do our best to do the right thing. At least, that's what's always helped me sleep at night." He turned back, and a serious expression tightened his face. Old pain danced across his eyes for a moment, then it was gone. "Just gotta do what we can."
  25. Humming a marching song as he worked, Svata carved and assembled from the pile of tech and oddities on the table. Slowly, over hours, his creation began to take shape. The center of the construction was the bone hilt, hollowed out for the power cell, crystal chambers, and the various other bits that made the ancient weapon work. He set down the vibro-etcher and took a long look at the decorative carving running along the length of the soon-to-be lightsaber. Constellations adorned the whole of the hilt, a starfield as detailed as the night sky. A simple, small outline of a sarlaac weaved between one cluster of stars on one side of the bone shaft, and a tiny ship moved through the stars on the others. My teacher and my family. Svata smiled as he stared at the empty spaces between the stars along the rest of the hilt. Looks like I've got a lot of space to fill. Svata began the work of placing the crystals into their respective chambers. He sunk into the Force as he'd been taught, for only through his connection to the mystical, uniting power could he complete his work. A bitter but pleasant ache unfolded in his chest as he worked, a memory coming to mind... Parami laughed, clapping her hands in time with Svata's silly marching song. Behind the exaggerated goosestepping of her shameless husband, their first son marched in time, breaking pace every few steps to run and catch up to his father's longer stride. A durasteel strut lay propped against the 4-year old boys shoulder, his "weapon" that he used to hunt the ship's loth cat. Unfortunately for Svata, the universe seemed to have granted the young the equivalent energy of a collapsing star, and the proud ryn had to admit defeat and end the game. He pulled his son aside and held the boy's "weapon". "Now, why do we use weapons?" he asked. The little boy opened his mouth, but then stopped, cocking his head in a comical fashion as he thought. He'd recently figured out that stopping and thinking got him the right answer more often than just blurting out whatever came into his head. Unfortunately, he was also four, and Svata could tell after a few moments that his son had gotten distracted and was off on some internal tangent. Parami, no doubt guessing Svata's intention, walked over. "What does Aunt Kila use her weapons for?" she asked. This answer knew, and he shouted, "To protect the clan!" Svata smiled. "That's right. That's what weapons are for. To protect the people and things you care about." "I don't think Aunt Kila likes me." Svata couldn't help but smile a little. The abrasive Kila had problems with children, and their son's recent obsession with weapons had earned her an endless stream of questions on a few occasions. Her respect for Svata's position had kept her from snapping at the little boy, but children were more perceptive than people thought. "I bet you're wrong. You're a Dragoste. Kila's a Dragoste." This seemed to appease the boy. "What should I fight for?" Svata considered, but it was Parami who answered. "Son, you should fight for whatever you believe in and whoever you want to protect." "I'll be a great protector like Aunt Kila!" Parami smiled and looked at Svata. "I know you will." Click The last piece of the the emitter array snapped into place on the hilt. The weapon was done. Svata wiped his eyes. "Alright. You just need a name. ...Protector." He chuckled. "Simple, but I think that fits us, don't you think?" He pressed the activation switch, and the twin golden blades hummed to life. "Protector..." he muttered, still grinning. ___________________________________________________________________________________ Svata stepped onto the bridge. He grinned as he wrapped his new lightsaber hilt in cloth to hide it from casual sight. "Defender Sarlaac, if you're going to teach me the mysteries of the Force, the honor of the Jensaarai, and my place in the universe, I think it's only right I teach you something." He stepped up to the viewscreen. "How to enjoy your work. And there's nothing more heartwarming than seeing a bully get what's coming to them. So yeah...I'm ready."
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