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Ary the Grey

Dantooine

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"Humanoid physiology hasn’t changed very much over the last ten thousand years.” Draygo waited for… something other than hesitation, but that turquoise blade just remained still, wavering perceptibly in the grip of uncertain hands. Freezing up wasn’t unusual for a trainee who had just been ordered to turn their weapon on a living creature--even on one who was entirely capable of defending herself. That was the entire point of drill: to supplement a panicky mind with useful instincts until the mind had the time to catch up and execute a conscious plan. The veteran Jedi took the first steps, advancing a meter with her own blade angled towards the young man’s carotid.

 

Genesis would have two courses of action: to bat away the advancing tip of her blade or to simply step out of its line. The novice choice was typically the latter and Armiena deftly brought her blade back to an offensive guard, the point of the incandescent blade only centimeters away from probing his own guard. What followed was a classical exchange of blows that could be reproduced in any duelist’s manual: stroke and counterstroke matched by circular sidesteps that could have been performed to music. The only complication was the uneven hull of McShipface and the many protruding ribs of its cargo hold.

 

“Shii-Cho is a useful foundation for swordplay. Even the masters need practice in the fundamentals. But most Jedi find it insufficient and focus on the more offensive Makashi, or defensive Soresu--or the acrobatic Ataru.” With that last comment, Draygo performed a spinning leap over her opponent, swiping his guard away with a strike from her forward flip. Upon landing on the hull plating, the veteran Jedi took a half-step back and tapped her apprentice just under the armpit with the unignited end of her lightstaff.

 

“That…” Armiena said, wincing just a little at the overexertion. “Was not Shii-Cho.”

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It didn't take long for my question to be given an answer, her form stepping toward me feverishly and hasteful. Twirling my blade in my hand out of sheer instinct, i brought up before my gaze and shifted my weight into my dominant heel, spinning out of her initial attack and turning back to face her in full circle. There was confusion in my gaze, perhaps even a hint of my rather not having to face her even in training. But she was as relentless in her pursuit as the Kath Hounds I've known my entire life. So I was forced into the defensive. 

 

Sparks erupted with each use of the blade's edge to block another attack, sweat bearing down into my eye causing it to sting and burn and water, using my weight to shift me from side to side to evade blows when I couldn't block. Even my breathing labored as fatigue began to set in along side my reluctance. But I pushed myself forward still, hinging on the balance between my will and my need. If I was truly to walk this Galaxy as a Jedi, I must become a Jedi in both mind and body.

 

I had to admit though, her last move before I felt her unignited blade tap me under my arm was slightly mesmerizing, a good bit of coolness emanating from it just as it had the night before when I performed a similar move upon the Kath Hounds that attacked me. Hearing her words, I sighed with subtle relief and deactivated my own. And I turned to face her, the gaze in my eyes still showing a semblance of unease as it shifted from my weapon to her.

 

"So there are many forms?" I questioned more i proclaimed, my mind wondering to which one would fit me best. "Which one works best with the curved hilt I chose?"


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"At least thirteen that I can think of," Armiena answered. Her right knee, not quite up to the prolonged physical exertion, was beginning to tremble from overuse. But she kept her voice steady, despite the fact that the color had flushed from her face. “And a few weird contingencies and one that most sapients are anatomically incapable of using. But you might as well ask a programmer what language is best. A good oneinevitably learns multiple over the course of their career and adapts as necessary.”

 

The veteran Jedi paused to take a deep breath and straighten from her crouch. With a sharp tug, she wrenched the two halves of her lightstaff apart and returned the offhand to her belt. “The answer is Makashi. The Jedi developed the form in a time when they expected to be fighting--and fighting people armed with lightsabers or other blades. You see a number of techniques that a curved hilt is better suited for--range control, using the tip of the blade for parries and disabling strikes. It’s very economical of motion, relies more on precise bladework and maneuvering than physical power.”

 

“And I’m lousy at it.” But Armiena soldiered on, determined to at least demonstrate the basics of the form to her Padawan. She took care to demonstrate the subtle difference in grip that Makashi demanded--slightly higher on the hilt, with the thumb facing upwards rather than cradling the hilt. That grip wasn’t quite as secure as her preferred Djem So, but it allowed for more nuanced control of the blade.

 

And then the sparring lesson continued, Armiena struggling to demonstrate how, with even subtle variations of blade angle right leverage, a duelist could wildly deflect a blow or even outright disarm an opponent by winding their blade around a poorly-aimed thrust. This time, however, the supposed Master clearly uneasy with a fighting style that wasn’t merely unfamiliar, but outright unpalatable--so much so that after trying to place her left hand on the hilt for a second time, she forced her hand to her hip and gripped the belt.

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"Makashi..." I spoke to myself as I glanced down upon the hilt, grasping it loosely against the palm of my hand with my thumb near the top as a means of guidence. Twirling the blade, I could see what she meant, the ease of the control, the fluidity of the movements, almost as if an extension of my own arm. "I see."

 

I stepped into position beside her, my gaze following her movements and allowing my form to mimic hers, stepping to the front with my dominant foot to the rear, and quickly using it retreat after. It was elegant, almost tasteful, the movements, parries, and thrusts.

 

But I couldn't help but notice that it could lead to so much more with practice, like learning to dance by following the base footwork and then improvising once it's been learnt by heart. And the most important part, was it felt natural to me, almost as if it called to my heart. And that alone eased my mind of using such a weapon.

 

And in that realization, I excelled. Soon I was moving ahead of Master Armiena at an invisible opponent, swatting their blades away, twisting around upon my heels, using feints to catch them off guard before quickly attacking with shallow cuts. But the most notable was the fact that I was drawn into using my form acrobatically, both as an extension of the blade and the blade an extension of my self. And in the final blow toward my opponent, I came into a spin, my blade against their invisible blade, and as I came out, I dropped the blade from my dominant hand into my off hand behind me and finished them with a well met slice to the torso.

 

I stood, deactivating my blade and clipping it to my hip. I turned with a chuckle, wiping the sweat from upon my face and had to catch my breath through my speaking, quite embarrassed. "Forgive me Master. I don't know what came over me."


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Draygo sprang back a step the moment that inspiration took her Padawan and consigned herself to the role of watchful instructor. Resting on her haunches and allowing the hilt of her lightsaber to dangle lightly from the tips of her fingers, she watched the motions of Genesis’ feet, hips, and back. Seeming to never blink, she occasionally frowned--more than any other Form, Makashi demanded exquisite control of the blade more than kinetic power. Only a critical observer could catch those minute shifts in balance.

 

“That spin is a moment of peril. If a skilled opponent sees that coming, there’ll be two of you on the floor. And even if they don’t, you’ll be off-balance once they block. I’ll guide you through it.” Rising to her full height, Draygo placed one hand on his shoulder and the other above his pelvis.

 

“Execute.” She guided him through the same spin he had earlier attempted, this time exerting constant pressure on his waist and shoulders to keep the young man’s center-of-gravity stable. Nothing about the motion would feel natural to Genesis and muscles that he didn’t know he possessed would be in agony after a few sets of repetitions, practice would make for a slightly faster motion, and more importantly, wouldn’t leave him off-balance if the finishing stroke was anticipated and blocked.

 

“And for your defense,” Armiena drew her own weapon and ignited the blade. “The danger of those spins is that, obviously, there is a half-second in which you’re blind and your opponent could potentially do whatever he pleases with you.What you can do is transition into a hanging guard to cover your back until just before you come out of that spin--and even swap into your off-hand for that backhand slash. It is a bit tricky…” Draygo demonstrated a few times, the motion growing faster with each repetition. The flourish that swept across her back to pick off a potential counterattack to her back looked like something out of a swashbuckling flick, but it would prevent her from being bisected by an experienced duelist.

 

After six repetitions, Armiena extinguished her blade and turned to face her Padawan. “Now, execute.”

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Kakuto Ryu emerged from a cell in the deepest level underneath the temple, a dim and dusty untrafficked subbasement. He still wasn't sure if he was dreaming or just hallucinating in the dark, but in either case he planned to make the most of the opportunity. Down the hall he heard the chittering and squeaks of a large arachnoid. He contemplated his options carefully. He could either try to escape from inside the temple, where he was likely to encounter Jedi and be killed or worse, be placed back in that cell; or he could try figure out how the beast got into the temple and use its route to get back outside. At his disposal he had nothing, the rags he wore and his fist--and only one fist at that. He inched down the hall slowly to try to see what manner of creature awaited him. He peeked around a corner and saw it shuffling in the dark. It was Kinrath--a large 4 legged insect with one big digging arm. Not an especially fearsome beast, but one that lived in hives. To get outside, he would surely have to cross paths with many of them. Even so, it seemed like a better bet than facing down a bunch of Jedi.

 

He began to worry that they would be coming for him if he waited too long. Surely the Jedi would be notified of the failure of his prison cell and come to investigate. Without the force he would have no way to sense their approach. There was precious little time to plan. Abruptly he heard the kinrath begin to shuffle down the hall. He didn't think it had seen him, but after a decade in a cell with no shower it most certainly smelled him. Ryu held up his hand and prepared to engage it. As soon as it peeked around the corner he grabbed it by its sharp digging claw and lunged at its head, sinking his teeth into its neck. It squealed with hostility, thrashing its arm to try to stab him. It had a hard exoskeleton, but with great determination and a small amount of fear he might have his journey end at the hand of such a humiliating foe, he managed to bite through its neck and tear the creature's head off with his teeth. 

Ryu spat out the insect's head and bitter disgusting blood, more than a little disappointed that his prey didn't taste good. After a decade with bland synthetic paste to eat, a steak was high on his list of priorities. It would have to wait though. When the kinrath stopped twitching he put his foot on its digging arm and tore off its claw. It wasn't much of a weapon, but it was better than nothing.

Tracing the path of the kinrath back to where he had seen it initially he found a large hole in the wall, an entrance path into a pitch dark cave. Evidently the creature had burrowed straight into the temple. He noted a torn cable sticking out of the wall where it had come through, suggesting this was what caused the door to his cell to open. For a moment he almost felt bad that he had bitten the head off of what was actually his savior. Perhaps if it had not tried to stab him he would have left it for the Jedi to deal with.

 

He felt a bit of dread at the prospect of groping blindly in a cave that, for all he knew, could be miles in length before he reached the surface. Still, it seemed like a better option than fighting his way through Jedi with a kinrath claw. Reluctantly he entered the cave and began slowly feeling his way along walls, his severed kinrath claw raised--ready to stab the next one he encountered in the face.

"At least I won't have to kill the next one with my teeth."

Edited by Kakuto Ryu

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"A moment..." Draygo muttered under her breath, for the moment looking very distracted. Frowning in concentration, she stared into the distance of the rolling prairie, searching for any sign of movement. There was nothing but the heat haze and a flock of songless birds that fluttered at random among the grasses. Continuing a slow rotation as she walked towards McShipface's oversized sensor dish, she sprang up on top of its edge with a minute application of The Force. Even perched standing on the vantage point, Armiena saw nothing of curiosity. The additional two meters of height extended her horizon to pick out the tips of a row of wind turbines that spun with the steady breeze, but there was no further sign of civilization.

 

She and her Padawan were quite alone.

 

And yet something had gone terribly wrong. It wasn't the horrible sense of emptiness to suggest that yet another person close to her had been lost to the war, nor the spike of urgency that warned of specific and immediate lethal intent.

 

Armiena glanced upwards. No sign of capital ships in orbit--only the flickering of a single freighter traveling to or from Khoonda. Her eyes rolled in a deliberate set of semi-circles. Of course that wouldn't elicit any response--the implants that she had carried during the last war had been removed. 

 

“Genesis,” she called behind towards her Padawan. “We’ll continue later. We launch in ten minutes.”

 

Draygo slid down the sensor dish and past the corridor, landing in the rolling grasses with a jolt of pain from her knees. That went ignored; she raced up the boarding ramp and towards the cockpit. When her Padawan found her, she would be hunched over the freighter’s communications console, poring over messages and communiques that had gone ignored over the last week. The majority of them were trivial, of course--there were even a few junk messages and a fraudulent attempt at collecting on a debt that certainly didn’t exist. She was about ninety-five percent certain that there was a seventy percent chance that it didn’t exist. Fleet movements. Urgent calls from Borleias and Mon Calamari. And… an automated message from a Jedi facility on Dantooine. A loss of power. Normally, Armiena would have simply bullied one of the Order’s army of technicians into addressing such a routine matter, but the message was so heavily redacted that it attracted her attention. The message would not even specify why this particular outpost was of any importance--it simply listed a set of planetary coordinates. 

 

She wasn’t even aware that the Jedi even maintained an outpost on Dantooine.

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I must admit that I was a bit uneased when Armiena placed her hands upon my form, particularly my pelvis, but I listened closely to her words and did as she asked. Igniting my blade, I executed the spin over and over, feeling her hands slide around my waist and guide my form, letting her knowledge of battle make up for my inexperience. With each spin and stroke, I could feel my muscles contracting and loosening, until finally, the burn began to set in, especially my loins.

 

And then her words echoed once again, this time, Armiena offering up her own demonstration and I could see what she meant. I had forced myself to face my opponent and use my blade as a shield in my spin, but when I came out of it, I was momentarily exposed before I switched to my off hand. Mimicking her, I came into the spin and focused on my balance, but when I came out, I quickly adapted to her demonstration. After a few repetitions, I was more sore than I had ever thought possible. And as she called for a moment, I fell out upon the decking, heavy in my breath and letting my muscles relax, thinking that perhaps i should stick to the basics and let them become second nature before i attempt unorthodox moves.

 

Hearing my name, i gazed up at her as she slid past me toward the ground, the wincing of muscle aches causing me to briefly lay there a moment later as i turned inward with the Force and focused on my oxygen and blood circulation toward my muscles, altering my body chemistry to aid in healing the small aches enough to regain myself. After a minute or so passed, i clamored to my feet and followed.

 

Sliding down the side of McShippy, i curled the Force beneath my form and slowed my decent, stepping off the whirlwind like stepping off a speeder's leg just as i hit the ground and quickly followed suite up the ramp. Naturally, when I found her, she was buried in documents, pouring over messages recieved when I noticed through my own peering a location I knew all too well. Pointing my finger to the small coordinates off on the side, I spoke. "The old Jedi Conclave they caught me stealing from. Just a few kilometers from here past my parent's old homestead."


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Ryu inched onward through the darkness for what seemed like hours, freezing when he heard noise, in constant anticipation of Kinrath attacks. Had run into two more since he entered the cave, taking a few claws to his chest and knees before he was able to blindly grapple and stab them to death. He could feel blood trickling down his left leg from where he'd been gouged. Passing around a corner, he noticed a dim light ahead. He approached slowly, concerned that it may be the glow of a lightsaber, but was relieved to instead find a cavern illuminated by glowing crystal formations and bioluminescent moss. He breathed a sigh of relief and approached the cavern. On one edge there was a small pool of water, and several Kinrath eggs. He approached a redi/pink crystal and hacked at the base of the shard with is severed kinrath claw until it broke off. He shoved the crystal into his waist band so that it may serve as a dim lantern.

He could now see the blood that was running down his leg. He walked over to the edge of the small subterranean steam, washing off the blood and packing the wound with mud to prevent it from bleeding further. It was deep but the pain wasn't severe. He was more concerned that the Jedi would follow the trail he was leaving behind than he was for the wound itself.

Strange... he pondered, I would have expected the Jedi to be catching up with me by now. I must be better at spelunking than I had thought I was.

 

Ryu stood and began to head for the nearest exit to the cavern. He hadn't gotten very far before he heard the crunch of an egg under his feet, along with the angry shriek of a kinrath in the distance. He muttered a slew of curses as he wiped the gooey contents of the egg no the floor. Then, raising up his severed claw, he waited for the Kinrath to come into his reach.When each came close enough, he slammed the severed claw downward into each of their heads, dispatching them very quickly. It was a  lot easier to stab the insects when he could see where their heads were. Ryu pressed forward, disappearing into another path opposite of where he'd come in.  With the new crystal lighting his way, Ryu continued into the depths of the earth.

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A strangled growling sound emitted from somewhere in Armiena’s throat. The veteran Jedi lifted off with a tad more velocity than was safe, pressing the two Jedi into their seats. Draygo didn’t utter a words during their transit, only fidgeting with a tiny spot-luma at her neck and occasionally glancing for updated transmissions from the Jedi outpost. It was only a few minutes before the medium freighter settled at its landing pad, landing with enough velocity to strike sparks off of the armored surface.

 

“When we put out the call for help, we weren’t expecting you.” A Cerean Jedi called as Master and Padawan descended from the boarding ramp.

 

“Sorry about that,” Draygo snapped. “Now what in the hells is REVANCHIST?”

 

The Cerean explained while guiding the two Jedi into the bowels of the Jedi Conclave, taking them down a turbolift and through two retinal- and voice-locked blast doors. Draygo soon lost all track of direction as they descended into the crust of Dantooine and into a section of the Jedi outpost that was infrequently used by living sapients--the glowpanels extinguished themselves as the Jedi passed and the atmospheric vents became less frequent. The tracks of wheels carved a path where maintenance droids passed through the dusty floor. Eventually, they passed a twisted hole in the wall of the subterranean corridor and the mutilated corpse of a carapaced kinrath spider. “None of us know who REVANCHIST is. All I know--all any of us know--is that we were delivered an armored sarcophagus with an ysalamir chassis. Orders were to keep its inhabitant sealed under ray shielding. Two days later, a team of Jedi came and--”

 

“Size?”

 

“About… two-point-five meters long, meter wide,” The Cerean guided the two Jedi to a room that was barely large enough to admit a container of that size. Large enough to house a large humanoid--we didn’t have anything more than lifesigns, and were told to keep its contents secured in our vault until--spast.”

 

Only once the words were spoken did the Cerean realize that Armiena Draygo was precisely the worst possible woman to be made aware that the contingency plan for REVANCHIST was essentially to put it in a box for the rest of its mortal existence and wait for it to die. Her face darkened and her jaw clenched, and a hand went to the blaster on her hip. Her face twisted in a scowl at the sight of the subterranean chamber that was intended to be REVANCHIST’s final resting place--aside from a food synthesizer and a water dispenser, the only fixtures of the room were the ray shield emitter and single glowpanel. It had been kept there like a lab vrelt, leaving it to pace the walls of the room until it died.

 

“There are closets on Coruscant bigger than this,” Armiena snarled. “We’ll take it from here. If you don’t receive a transmission from us in two hours, signal the fleet and evacuate.” To her half-Miraluka Padawan, she added, “That kinrath-hole we passed is almost certainly the escape path. It’ll be a squeeze, but we’ll fit. On my six.”

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Ryu trudged on through the cavern, heading up a steep slope. The crystal made his progress faster, but what guided him now was smell. Mixed in with the damp cave air, he smelled grass, and better, the air was moving now. He was close. Around the next bend, he saw light, and with a growing sense of urgency he began to run forward until at long last he felt the light touch his skin. Immediately after passing through the mouth of the cave he fell to his knees in pure bliss.

He saw the setting sun ahead of him, the open endless sky above him, and felt overpowered by its beauty. The cool wind blew across his skin and filled his nostrils with fresh air. He raised his hands into the sky, reveling in the glory of freedom, and stayed in that very spot for nearly 20 minutes. It was such a relief to see sunlight again, to be out from under a roof again. In that moment he became certain that he would bite off his own tongue and bleed out before he'd spend another day in that cage. He would accept only freedom or death from this moment forward.

----

A stray nerf grazed idly in the tall grass, lifting it's head to look around upon hearing a shuffle. After a few moments it lowered its head and resumed chewing the dense grass that covered Dantooine. It heard a second shuffle, and raised its head to look around with a mild but noticeable sense of anxiety. When it heard and saw nothing more, it tried to continue feeding, when suddenly Ryu leapt up from the grass and landed on its back, jabbing it in the neck with his Kinrath Claw. The beast thrashed, but bled out quickly from the wound on its neck. When it stopped moving, Ryu grabbed it by the horns hauled it off into a clearing by a stream, where he had started a fire using primitive methods. He eviscerated the creature clumsily with kinrath claw then suspended some of its meat above the fire. He smashed the creature's skull on a rock then took a horn to replace his claw. While he waited for the slab of meat to cook, he went over to the water, taking a drink and then stopping to look at his own reflection. He barely recognized the filthy hobo that stared back at him. His beard was huge and bushy, his hair was extremely long, matted and unkempt, and his body was covered in dirt and blood. He decided to wash off some of the filth while he waited, and climbed into the stream. He let the current of the river do the work, just staring up at the sky until the stars appeared.

 

When he was done he sat down on the nerf pelt and tamped out his fire with a rock, afraid he would be detected but unwilling to do anything more until he ate. He took his charred hunk of nerf flesh by an exposed bone and bit into it. It was, by far, the most delicious thing he'd ever tasted.

Edited by Kakuto Ryu

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As Armiena took off, I fell back into my chair with a rough 'thumph', the soft chair cushioning most of the tilted fall. Strapping myself in, I could only imagine what was racing through her mind at that moment, so I sat in silence, mostly lost in the memories of the last time I stepped foot within its halls. It helped to pass the awkward silence that had befallen us, and before I knew it, we landed nearly as hard as we took off. Unbuckling myself, I fell in behind her as we departed McShipface a hint of my own awkwardness as I stepped out onto the soil that I once attempted to steal from and the events that led me to who I had become since.

 

Not much of the place had changed, and as Armiena and the Jedi conversed, I walked behind, taking in the sites I once only saw in the dead of night, catching a few gazes that recognized me from my trial before I was handed over to the DSF and sent to Felucia. I had changed so much from the gutter rat that I once was and now I was on the precipice of my Knighting, and yet, the gazes I recieved still made me uncomfortable and judged. Every now and then, I would catch a portion of the conversation. But for the most part, it was a walk down memory lane for myself.

 

Yet, we went even deeper than even I had been able to go, my interest peaked as I studied the subterranean portion of the conclave, and even this 'Revanchist' that my two Elders were conversing about. That was, until Armiena's composure fell and I saw her reach for her blaster, causing a bit of a shock to my mind. Whatever Revanchist was, these Jedi were simply following orders, orders with what seemed to be on a need to know basis. I understood her reaction, but at the same time, surely the Order had their reasons for such precautions and measures. Right? Such secrecy alluded me, and whatever it was, for such measures to be taken meant danger. And yet, like Armiena, I did not hold to the idea of life imprisonment.

 

Confusingly, I nodded my head when Armiena spoke to me, unclipping my saber and holding it at the ready. But before she took off, I grasped at her arm. "Is everything alright Master? You seem uneased."


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Grunting with effort--and occasionally pain when her knees bashed against the twisting walls of the kinrath hole--Draygo explained. “I have a bit of experience with sensory deprivation. No matter what those Jedi might--damn this robe, leave it, they’ll find it when they seal this hole back up--I mean, no matter what those Jedi might claim, sensory deprivation is torture. It’s psychologically devastating. You lose all sense of time, stress hormones and heart rate skyrocket. You begin hallucinating after a while, just so your brain has some data to play around with. If I were to interrogate that Cerean, he’d probably get defensive and claim that he was only following orders. Not pfasking acceptable. Not for anyone, especially not for a Jedi.”

 

After the third occasion of the sleeves of her robe snagging on the walls of the tunnels, Draygo just let the oversized garment slip from her shoulders. Soon the dusty, claustrophobic confines of the tunnels opened up into a larger cavern complex. She sniffed as she lifted her spot-luma to reveal a rocky ceiling that was glistening with moisture. There was humidity in the air; the cloying reek of kinraths, moss, and...blood. She knew these caves, had even taken crystals from one of the lower chambers. But it was the kinraths that concerned her--the subspecies on Dantooine liked to cluster into hives… but the cause of their absence soon became clear when the two Jedi followed the blood trail into one of their hive chambers. 

 

Five of their bodies lay collapsed in the darkness, each stabbed through their primary neural cluster with a crude weapon. Draygo placed a boot on the poisoned limb of one of their corpses and jerked upwards, severing the appendage with a sickening crunch of cracking chitin and the reek of the congealed liquid of its guts. She turned it over, peering at the angles of the claw before tossing it back onto its corpse.

 

This particular hive--depopulated very recently by a massively powerful individual wielding one of their one limbs--lay very close to the surface, and Draygo and Genesis soon found themselves under a moonlit night on the plains. The trail of kinrath gore had ended hundreds of meters ago, but it was a clear night and a faint wisp of smoke lingered against the pale light of Dantooine’s pair of moons. She thumbed the spot-luma on her neck to extinguish it and drew her blaster. She set off at a jog, following the direction of that faint wisp of smoke and the smell of cooked meat that began to waft over the wind.

 

And there he was, a mess of filthy hair and skin that was perfectly silhouetted against the blackness of a stream. “He’s… he’s eating. Be ready, just in case,” the veteran Jedi muttered. A pale finger ran along the receiver of her blaster to confirm that it was set to stun. She paused to watch the wild man tear into a fire-seared leg of nerf, seeming to have no cares on his mind save ripping huge chunks of meat from the bone. Now came the difficult part--introducing herself to an unholy abomination of such power that the Jedi Order had determined that it was safest to leave him in a box for the rest of his existence.

 

She fired two stun blasts directly into the air. The report of the blaster would carry for hundreds of meters on this quiet night and the azure rings couldn’t possibly be missed.

 

Hopefully a warning blaster from nearly a hundred meters away wouldn’t be taken as an mortal threat.

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I nodded with slight understanding as we crawled through the tight spacing, only my imagination giving me a glimpse of what she was talking about. But in truth, I could only imagine it. Laying in a tight box, no light or sound, only darkness and occassional smell of one's self. It made my skin crawl at just the thought of such a fate. And my mind couldn't wrap its self around the Jedi partaking in such torture. Yet, the box, the orders, all were true and evident. Only I couldn't even begin to imagine what power a person could weild to warrant such damnation.

 

Climbing over the loose garment that Master Armiena left behind, I gripped the edges of the tunnel's opening into the cavern before us, its rank and putrid smell defecating my nostrils as soon as I took in the air within. Igniting my saber, I explored what its light touched with my sight as Armiena took point, pulling tight my vibroknucklers upon my fists as i switched hands. Bodies seem to stack up as we went, kinrath corpses by what i could tell. And when Master Armiena dislodged one's claw with an awful gut wrenching noise, their means of death were revealed.

 

Dantooine had been my home as long as i could remember, likely longer. Kath Hounds were dangerous enough, but they were passive aggressive and only attacked when threatened or hungry. Kinrath were a totally different beast, cave dwellers who would attack without provocation. And even the greatest of raiders i had met during my excursions all knew to avoid them at any cost. So to see what appeared to be a singular force capable to taking them down, it amazed me and terrified me at the same time. So much so, that before i realized it, we had exited the cave system and was back on the surface, a clear night filled sky above us.

 

Deactivating my blade and clipping it to my hip, I followed in Master Armiena's suite, grabbing my blaster and sticking close to her heels despite how tired I was after the previous day's workout. There was always a rejuvenating quality of Dantooine's night air, especially like tonight. But even despite that, I couldn't help but struggle to keep up. A few kilometers away, and a fire revealed itself along with a man. And unlike the cave, the smell of the meat her was tantalizing and inviting. Yet I remained on guard, nodding my head as I upholstered my own blaster and set it to stun and heard Master Armiena fire into the air, placing his visage in my crosshairs. 


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Ryu's ears rang with the sound of the stun blaster, adrenaline pumping and cold sweat forming on his skin. On impulse he dove into the grass, keeping his body low to the ground to try to obscure himself in the brush. He didn't see who fired, but he saw the stun blast go skyward--a clear signal that it was a warning shot and not meant to hit him. He was overwhelmed with indecision. Was it a Jedi, or maybe just some farmer? Perhaps somebody looking for the Nerf he'd slain. If they meant to kill him or throw him back in the cell, a stun blaster and a warning shot didn't seem like a good start. His instinct was to run, but abandoning the spoils of his hunt seemed unappealing. He tried to peek out through the grass to see who was coming, but he couldn't make out anyone in the darkness. He settled on attempting diplomacy.

"What do you want? Go away! This is my Nerf. You can't have any! It's terrible anyway, you wouldn't want it!" Ryu shouted to the unknown person approaching, then whispered to his meat slab, "I didn't mean that, you're wonderful"

Ryu's attempt at negotiating sounded a lot more crazy and desperate when he heard it out loud. His voice was course and raspy from disuse.  He began to crawl slowly, through the brush, toward the river. He was prepared to make a run for it based on what he heard in response, or as soon as he heard an approach.

Edited by Kakuto Ryu

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“Not yet, Genesis. Not yet. We’ll wait and see what The Thing That Should Not Be is up to. He hasn’t done anything threatening… so far.” It was only after she had fired two stun blasts into the night sky that Draygo supposed that she could have announced her presence with a less dramatic demonstration. True, the sound carried for hundreds of meters on a clear night like this and the bright blue rings were visible against the matte sky for an even greater distance, but the blaster fire--even a stun blast--could have been interpreted as a threat. That was especially more likely if the wild man was supposedly on the run from the Jedi Order.

 

Her left hand drifted to her neck to reactivate her spot-luma. It flared to life, clearly illuminating her position to reveal that two Jedi were approaching.

 

“I’m coming towards you! I’ll stop at one hundred meters!” Draygo shouted into the night. And so she approached, taking slow, labored steps through the tall grass. The veteran Jedi kept her senses fixed on the location of the wild man to gauge his responses--the man was uncertain, frightened, but there was no indication of malice or lethal intent. That was fine. That, Draygo could work with.

 

As the distance closed to two hundred meters, Draygo paused. Even at this distance, the white light of the spot-luma would glint against her belt and make it clear that she was armed with a lightsaber.

 

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Movement was all I was able to make out as the shadow silhouette dove out of sight, my blaster following his direction quickly as my finger slowly squeezed the trigger. But Armiena's words stopped me, feeling her hand brace my shoulder as she spoke and she stepped forward toward the man. Lowering my blaster, I followed, slowly, my gaze fixated toward where the man's figure had disappeared, leary of who or what he could have been, his hoarse voice only confirming what i was thinking.

 

So he was the one locked away by the Jedi Order. Or perhaps a crazy coot with a piece of the meat lodged down the wrong wind pipe, with the latter seeming more coincidental than true. No. He spoke like a crazed prisoner, sensory overloaded and unsure of himself. And that could possibly spell even more dangerous than whoever he was before being locked away in such a manner. A sense of relief settled upon me as Armiena activated her beam and returned her own words, but I still stood at the ready should he try a move of desperation.

 

"Its been a minute since I've had nerf." I jested in hopes of adding my own attempt to defuse the already dangerous situation. "Perhaps you would lend a fellow vagabond a sample to taste? Surely it's not entirely bad?"

 

As Armiena stopped, so did I, my blaster still set to stun near my hip in my off hand and my saber clipped opposite. I stood in her shadow, out of sight save for my youthful voice, hoping that my Master's experience would serve a better outcome. Looking toward her, I shrugged my shoulders, before refocusing on his obscure location. Curiosity was beginning to get the better of me.


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Ryu's blood ran cold at a the figures stepped out into the open, the sight of the lightsaber filling him with terror and dread. He was certain now. They were Jedi--or at least one of them was. His instinct was to run as fast as he could, but in his heart he knew he was unlikely to be able to evade pursuit for very long. The second person spoke up, affirming his desire to have part of Ryu's nerf. Though his heart screamed for him to run, he decided to continue leaning on the art of diplomacy.

After a few moments of Shuffling in the grass, Ryu popped up into view with a large slab of bloody uncooked beef in hand. With a heavy groan he launched the still warm mass of flesh toward Genesis's head. Despite having only one arm to throw it with, the meat sailed through the air with alarming speed and accuracy. Without waiting to see where it landed, he dove back into the grass.

"Here! That's all you get though! No more! I'm not going back to the dark place! It's... Too... damn dark! You can't make me! Take my meat like you took everything else! There's Nothing left!"


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Splat.

 

There was still no indication of lethal intent when a small projectile crossed the light of Dantooine’s moons--panic, maybe, but no actual intent to cause harm. All that followed was the sound of a wet impact and the meaty thud of something hitting the tall grass. So Draygo just glanced and raised an eyebrow at the sight of blood dripping from her Padawan’s face. Surely it wasn’t--her eyes flickered towards the torn corpse of the nerf--it was a chunk of raw meat that he had just been pelted with.

 

Some Unspeakable Abomination this demented jailbreaker was turning out to be. Perhaps it would be possible to end this stalemate without further violence--at least not to the living.

 

The veteran Jedi returned to her labored pace through the tall grasses. Her hands played at her blaster pistol, removing the power cell and holstering the weapon. Upon reaching the corpse of the nerf, Draygo paused again. There was a vagueish shadow on the waving sea of grass under the moonlight--though fear radiated off of the wild man in such palpable waves that she could have stumbled upon him blindfolded. Trying to force him to return to the Jedi Order’s solitary confinement dungeon was almost certainly to result in violence.

 

Her hands went to the clasp of her gunbelt and she removed and tossed it towards the nerf corpse without glancing. She didn’t look, but it landed on an ant mound with a spray of loose soil. Hundreds of tiny insects came swarming out and began crawling all over  her belt in search for an intruder or something edible.

 

Still unaware of having tossed her weapons onto the home of thousands of furious insects, Draygo looked towards the shadow in the grass. “I can’t blame you,” she began, allowing some venom to seep into her voice. “I saw the box that the Jedi put you in. It’s disgusting that they would do this--to anyone. So… yeah. I’m here to talk. I got all night.”

Edited by ObliviousKnight

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I stood there in silence as blood ran down my face, the eye patch covering my Miraluka heritage saturated in its fluids. As Armiena departed toward the man, I looked around, the stooped down and placed the meat into a paper I had on hand and tied it with some yarn before placing it into my satchel. I wasn't half lying when I said it had been awhile since I had nerf. Standing back up, I wiped what I could off my face and started walking to catch up with Master Armiena.

 

The moon was in full phase tonight, and on a crystal clear night like this one, the area was well lit and almost picturesque, able to see nearly a few kilometers with perfect senses. Still, the grass was tall and it was rather obscure even when the wind blew and shifted about. Coming upon the carcass and former campfire, I gazed around, attempting to gather a glimpse into the man's mindframe through what I and Armiena saw before us.

 

It was a primitive set up for a camp, the hide laid about upon the dewing grass near the fire, the meat hanging across the wood. Even the Kinrath Claw was discarded nearby, kicking it with my foot where it had been torn from its owner. And looking at the dimming embers of the fire, not doused with water, were still warm and partially covered a small stone that laid beside it. A smirk crossed my face. This man knew how to go off the grid and disappear. We were truly lucky to have caught up to him.

 

As Master Armiena spoke, I sat down on a nearby rock by the brook, gazing into it as I remembered the box myself. "You have nothing to fear, stranger." I spoke behind her, memories of my own imprisonment rolling into my mind. "My Master here saved me from my own imprisonment, and i highly doubt she would condone you to such a fate either."


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Ryu was confused by the actions of his pursuers. Despite efforts to allay his fears, he was still deeply distrustful of their words. When the female disarmed herself, he wondered if it was a ruse. Even so, without a ranged weapon it seemed unlikely that she would able to attack him if he left his cover. Grudgingly he decided to stand up, revealing his sorry state. He looked like a ghost in the moonlight, his skin, hair, and eye in varied shades of gray. His flesh was a tapestry of scars, telling a story of violence that spanned hundreds of encounters. He was thin, emaciated from only intermittently eating what was provided for him in the cell. One of his arms was missing, a dark gray mechanical socket indicating that there had once been a cybernetic arm attached. His face was largely hidden behind the wild unkempt hair and bushy grey beard, his one glittering silver eye peeking out from the mess.

 

No Longer hiding, he studied the two before him. The boy seemed unimposing, looking like a fairly average spacer. He could see the lightsaber on his hip, but Ryu's intuition was that he hadn't a lot of experience with it. The woman concerned him more. Her gaze was stern, her stance told him that she had seen many battles. Even disarmed, she could be a a threat if she meant to be one. Looking in her pale green eyes, he sensed something... familiar. His muddled memory could not place what it was though. He had some slight inclinations of his past, but he knew only what had come back to him in the hallucinations he experienced from his cell.

"I..." Ryu began to speak but trialed off, hesitating. "I am lost. I think my memory has been tampered with, and I do not recall how I came to be here. I'm not even sure what planet this is. What..."

Ryu trailed off again, taking a few steps forward from the dense grass.

"If you don't intend to kill me or to put me back in that cell, what is it you want from me? Why have you followed me, and what do you intend to do now that you've caught me? "


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This was the first time that Draygo had gotten a clear look at the escapee. The man boasted nearly a third of a meter on her, but was emaciated--likely self-neglect after months or years in solitary confinement, which also explained the tangled mess of facial hair. It was the scars that concerned the veteran Jedi, however. If scars were script, then the man’s body was the equivalent of at least two volumes of Military History of Ryloth. His skin was a monument to warfare, with a violent past etched on every centimeter of skin that was exposed by the tattered coverall. That, or they were self-inflicted. Likely the former, as Draygo recognized the leads on his elbow that indicated that he had once made use of a prosthetic.

 

Her eyes drifted towards her gunbelt, briefly making contact with Genesis’. Her expression was devoid of affect, carefully poised to not reveal her emotions. Similarly, her Force-presence had stilled in an attempt to not betray her nervousness.

 

“For now, I’ll settle for your conversation,” Arrmiena responded breezily, returning to the deceased nerf in search of her discarded gunbelt. “Simple fact is that the Jedi believe that you’re dangerous. Dangerous enough that a power failure in your cell triggered a distress signal. They might have been correct, but what they did to you was torture. So… no, I’m not going to take the easy way out and just hand you back to them, and I’d really prefer to not kill someone tonight.” She knelt by the discarded belt, pawing over it for her canteen and a tiny air-tight canister.

 

“Caf? ‘Fraid it’s instant, but this seems like that kind of moment--ah, frack.” An irritated hiss issued from her lips. Ants were crawling all over her gunbelt. By this point, they had succeeded in invading every pouch in search for something edible--which now included her left hand. Still, caf had priority over minor physical pain and she mixed in the canister of instant-mix grounds before inspecting the dozen-odd insects that were attached to her hand by their mandibles. She wiped her hand furiously on her black jumpsuit.

 

She took a swig from the canteen. It was military-grade insta-caf, tasting of chemicals and mediocrity, but it was caffeinated and warm against the chill of the night. “Name is Armiena Draygo. Anyone?” The veteran Jedi offered, holding out the canteen to her Padawan and in the vague direction of the fugitive.

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As the man rose, I studied his figure. As with any figure whom had seen imprisonment, his hair was shaggy and his beard unkempt. But his form was frail and thin, likely having been kept in that box for who knows how long. Still, there was an unease in the pit of my stomach that remained even after he spoke and I couldn't truly understand why. His body was riddled with scars, and even a prosthetic socket adorned his arm. But his gaze seemed puzzled, and even almost timid. Yet I still for the life of me couldn't explain why he caused the hairs of my neck to stand on their ends.

 

Leaning over, I blew into the smoldering coals as I placed fresh fuel upon them, dry grass that laid within reach and a few logs the man had gathered before finding a stick to jab through the nerf he had thrown at me earlier. Laying it across another I had jabbed into the soil, my gaze shifted to meet Armiena's before turning to his own. Soon the smell of the fat rolling from the meat would wander around them as it boiled and sizzles against the flame.

 

"You're on Dantooine." I spoke with an almost hiss to my tone, my leeriness likely coming through over protecting my homeworld from someone the Jedi seemed dangerous enough to bury away. Still, I couldn't help but pity the man anyways, a possible mirrored reflection of what could have been my fate if Master Armiena hadn't came into my life. "And truth be told, we're simply investigating you, and why you were given such a fate..."

 

Before I could finish my sentence, I heard Armiena curse, causing a natural reaction to jerk toward her. "Master Draygo?" I spoke abruptly, but settled back down when i saw the entanglement she had placed herself in. When offered the caf, I shook my head a solid no. Wasn't much a caf drinker to begin with. Made me jittery. Looking back toward the man, I finished. "So tell us stranger. Now that you're free, what are your plans? Where would you go with no memories? Do you remember anything related to your past?"

 

I know I was being a bit inquisitive, but I was curious what his next moves were.


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Ryu cautiously took the canteen from Armiena. He wasn't sure if he believed they would not turn on him, but after such a long isolation he was more in need of companionship than he was willing to to admit--even to himself. He took a sip from the canteen, then after a moment contemplation, a second much longer drink, half emptying the canteen before passing it back. As the boy rekindled the fire he decided to take a seat. Ryu listened intently as he spoke, ruminating on the boy's glib explanations of where he was, and why they had followed him. He sat in cold silence for several moments following his line of questions, apparently lost in though.

"My plans do not extend far beyond this moment. I'm hoping to find some new clothes and a replacement for my arm. I was planning to tear one off the next droid I encounter, though in this wilderness I don't expect that would happen any time soon. If it is true that I'm not being pursued by anyone but you, then I suspect my past is quite lost. I don't know where I came from, and you who came after me when I escaped that prison don't seem to know why I was there either. I have no direction other than away from that cell."

Ryu stared into the fire. A few remaining ants from the Canteen were crawling on his arm, but as he he watched the flame he did not seem to notice them.

Do you remember anything related to your past?

The words stirred up what little recollection he had within him, horrific visions of an endless war on all that lived. He could hear the screams of countless dying men and women, and in the fire he saw entire worlds burning. He did not really understand what it all meant, when or where he was remembering, but he had a dreadful sense that the violence that haunted him was his own doing. He felt sickened by the notion that this carnage was all that laid behind him, guilty that he was likely the cause of immeasurable suffering but lacked any sense of why it had happened, or what had driven him to do it. He knew that despite Armiena's condemnation of his imprisonment, the words of the baleful specter that had haunted his cell were most assuredly correct. He did deserve it. He had earned that suffering and much more.

The ants were biting into his flesh now, sharp mandibles tearing away minute hunks of his flesh. He remained motionless, his eye still fixed on the flame. He opened his mouth to speak, but still took several moments before he found the words. He considered denying that he knew anything at all, sure that any admission of truth would change the Jedi's minds about their desire to chat. Yet, a sense of penitence drove him to admit what little could form into a coherent thought.

"All I know is that my name is Ryu. Kakuto Ryu. And your mercy is most certainly wasted on me."


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“So we are acquainted, then. I didn’t recognize you under the beard.” Draygo managed to keep her voice even, but there were a handful of indications that she was prepared to fight and kill. There was how she turned her face away from the newly-ignited flame to protect the night-vision of one of her eyes; how her eyes flickered between Ryu’s waist and shoulders for any sign of tension, any sign that he was about to attack. And the less subtle: there was an audible click as she abandoned the next swig of caf and shut the canteen; how her stance widened from an affected slouch in anticipation of a possible attack. 

 

How Draygo stepped forward to interpose herself between the former Dark Lord and her Padawan. Once the immediate jolt of adrenaline faded and her hand stopped shaking, she was able--finally--to probe this ruined creature that Ryu had become. She found… shame. That was difficult to believe. There were few sapient beings that had as much blood on their hands as the former Dark Lord. Perhaps the Arkanian was not quite as infamous as Faust or Ar-Pharazon, with their repugnant flare for the dramatic, but he had wrought as much devastation on the galaxy to sate his sadistic tastes.

 

Instinct told her to kill, to not risk unleashing the former Dark Lord on the galaxy. The memory of a departed friend warned her to not become a murderer.

 

“So you intend to leave and… just... live?” Draygo asked with a quiet snort. “My concern is the long-term. There have been several instances where Jedi believed that they could completely remake a sapient being--wipe their memory and start anew. I suppose that they believed it more compassionate than killing. New past, new memories, new personality. Tabula rasa, I think that’s the term.”

 

A glance away from Ryu indicated exactly what Draygo thought of that line of logic. “They were all wrong, of course--without exception. At some point your memories will begin to assert themselves and you’ll need to learn to live with the person that was killed from you. You will probably be followed by the Jedi Order for the rest of your natural life. That will be harder time than I can imagine. Unless…”

 

Draygo cut herself off. There was potentially a way that Ryu could walk away from this encounter with his life and the veteran Jedi with her conscience clear. But it was a ridiculous plan--absurd in its recklessness, likely to get her cashiered by the more conservative wing of the Jedi Order, if not killed outright when Ryu’s memories started to resurface. Still, as stupid of an idea as it might have been, Armiena could almost see Darex struggling to not burst out laughing at its audacity.

 

“Unless you were to leave with us.”

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