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Camik watched the flames burn. The firelight could always be hypnotic and it allowed him to ignore the giggling newcomers easier. Telperien didn’t seem to be bothered by their presence so he could only assume that they were welcome. Or he would be directed to kill them later. Perhaps he would anyway he wasn’t sure. His mind was clear as he delved into her question. 

 

When he finally spoke his voice was calm, no anger in it just that of a story teller reading from a data pad. ”Much of my anger and rage comes from my time as a slave. There is enough raw emotions there for me to draw upon for a lifetime.  My previous Master … encouraged me to use other emotions as well but anger simply is too easy to not use it. Then having other events such as being sent to a desert plant on a wild goose chase and forgotten simplest adds to my inner pool. But for starting the fire. There was some rage, in that ball of emotion but much of what I have been working with this day is pride. I am a Cathar. Our bodies are warrior perfection and be it a Rancor or a fire it will bend before my will.”

 

He looked away from the fire, his eyes glancing at the newcomers. ”So who are they? I am surprised to find anyone else out here, or did you bring them out here for my training?” He still hadn’t decided what he would want to do with them. Fight them, hunt them, or some other more carmel activity with them. The only thing he was sure was he wanted to complete his training. It had been neglected for so long. He could only work so much on his own in that deserted planet and now he intended to drink up all that was offered to him.

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Slavery is a powerful trauma. It plants the deep spike of anger and injustice into your heart something you can draw on for a very long time.” Speckled amethyst eyes narrowed as she glanced across the fire to Camik, her voice turning to dark reproach. “Until it turns to poison in your veins. Would you really let your defining moments revolve around such emotions? Would you turn this inner angst against the galaxy until every good thing tastes of salt and ashes in your mouth?” She let her eyes travel across the impromptu gathering of young women and now two spacers. “There is a saying in our clans that every pain left untended bites worse than a rockstang. For just as you need to but the wounded flesh from yourself so too should you cut this trauma from you before it consumes your very soul. Tasmeria,  Anathia! Get these young men something to eat as I tell you all a story.” 

 

The two youngest of the girls rushed to gather some cooked Rancor, offering it to Sevarta and Sarlacc. They did not know them, but the Nightsister had commanded it, so they would obey.

 

Telperiën extended her hand and summoned the force through the clear crystal that lay nestled against her wrist. Whispering a word of power. “Thandrim.” The young Witches gasped in awe and settled down on their haunches, eagerly eating the cooked rancor they held in their hands as the fire began to morph and change. 

 

It was nothing like a holoprojector of course, but the girls would not have that comparison. It was only the two spacers and Camik that would likely be unimpressed. The fire jumped in a flash of white and orange then settled into a blue flame. And within the flame there was a face. A face much akin to Telperiën’s though older and more regal. 

 

“The Nightsongs were once a mighty clan.” The name drove a shiver of fear through the youngest of the witches gathered around the fire, and a look of stern resolve over the older faces. “They believed that their strength could contend with the very stars of heaven.” The scene in the fire shifted again to a large group of alike looking women, who were beating several young girls. Blood like lava dripped into the burning logs at the base of the fire. “But to find that strength they believed that they must purify their lineage. They would change their bloodline by force and terror.” Telperiën gave a sidelong glance to the spacers then back at the awestruck girls. “And they succeeded. Through their terror they produced a sister of frightening power.” The fire morphed again to that original face. 

 

“They say She could summon magiks without words of power. Through harnessing hate and lust she could command even the strongest of this world to her bidding. But like all creations of violence this golem could not be controlled.” The fire showed a village in flames. “And she nearly destroyed the Nightsongs before they exiled her to the stars. She found a new coven there. Of Men and women who harnessed their hate and violence, she even found lovers among the stars. Great Kings of Men with powers Devine” The fire showed a man with a dark face, eyes of coals and the girls cowered before the hate in his eyes. The Sith Lords they named themselves and begat much evil among the stars.” Depictions of a city in the clouds bursting asunder in fire and death wove themselves through the minds of all those around the fire. “But the sister did not forget the hate. She did not forget the beatings. She carried it with her through the stars. Like a coal carried in ashes to start another fire she carried it. Sleeping and dangerous.” 

 

The woman's face now reappeared, but with the burning eyes of the Sith Lord. “You see she desired to come back to Dathomir. Even as she bed kings and men alike she desired to come home. As even the Rancor does when it needs to sire its pups.” The girls nodded. “And so she came home to bring forth the spawn of her lovers. And when she came to the Nightsong camp, she could not control that coal she had tended for so long.” The fire surged into a column that lit the night and bushes around them. “The fire raged out of control. Consuming all that she had once loved and hated. And instead of conquest or reconciliation she brought death and doom. And so her home burned and with it all of our homes.” She looked to Camik, then the spacers, and finally to the girls. “And that is why our villages are dispersed and the ground gives up no life. It is because of hate. So do not let yourself harbour such things. For it kindles outside of your control. Now eat, there is much left on that haunch.”

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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."

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The Sarlacc followed suit, plopping down much less gracefully on a log nearby his elder apprentice. He set his helmet on the ground beside him. Nodding his thanks to the young girl, he took his chunk of meat and tore into it with all the grace and respect of a spacer who had travelled the galaxy and  knew enough to accept food when offered, but cared little for custom until he could learn it. If anything, the man felt more at home on the frontiers of space than he did back aboard the converted Ithorian herdship, Raka Nwul, their order called home.

 

He listened intently as the woman who seemed in charge told of their people. This was what they had come for, to learn. The manipulation of the flames before them gave him pause. Clearly she was skilled. He listened to her words and watched as the images morphed and shifted endlessly, adding to her tale.

 

Shooting a warm glance at Svata, the Sarlacc knew the Ryn was in his element. Stories, tales, and the regaling of histories was something that certainly played to Svata's strengths.

 

Still, he could feel the darkness there. It echoed softly, even from the fire. It was if the land itself had been saturated in it and they found themselves at but one of it’s cruxes of power. What had they stumbled into?

 

Following Svata’s lead, he offered a warm greeting in stride. “I am called Sarlacc, for like the mysterious beast, I am here to sit and take in all that may be offered, that I might best serve as a protecting presence to any that take shelter beside me.”

 

Looking from Camik to Telperiën, he added, “Hate is a powerful force. One that nearly destroyed our people. May we offer what assistance two humbled vagabonds may in restoring your world from the fires that destroyed not only it’s life, but essence?”

 

Slowly he took another bite of grilled rancor as he surveilled those in the camp. There were som many questions to be asked; but if they could tender goodwill, there would be time for such things later. One did not need to know all or agree on all to lend a helping hand.  If the Jensaarai knew one thing, it was how to serve. Still, for the moment, he would hide their presence still. The Jensaarai way.

 

 

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Thin eyebrows raised suspiciously 
 

Despite their purely alien features, Telperiën was not repulsed by the blue skinned duros or the hook nosed ryn. Their voices were pleasant and did not carry the stuttering halter of Dathomiri ‘basic.’ Their presence at the fire was wholly unexpected, for Dathomir held no tourism, save for the downed or lost spacer trying to make a fortune from the mystical remains of the Chu'unthor. But those had been men of greed and passion, neither of which Telperiën could sense. A quick glance over showed no suspicious equipment or even means of defense and she suddenly found herself cursing the weakness of her blood. 

 

She could not easily rip into the minds of these men like the Sith Lords could. But then they were of no danger, for what could they be? Not rebels or Jedi, for they would have never just simply come to Dathmir. 

 

“Hate is a power that few can control before it eats them whole. Yes.” She cocked her head to the side, the tiny crystals that were tied into the braids beside her ears making an almost musical tone as they touched each other and collided. 

 

“Savata and Sarlaac.” She spoke the names like she was tasting them. The syllables difficult to pronounce with the heavily accented basic. “I must apologize that we have little lodging to offer other than hide tents.” Then her eyes widened a little, the amethyst purple-pink iris’s catching the firelight. “But I must introduce myself as well before I accept your assistance.” 

 

She stood and offered a bow that shook the crystals again. The lightsaber showing itself for but a moment at the edge of her belt. 

 

“I am Telperiën Ar-Pharazon of the High Coven Myrkengodi.” Would they know the name Ar-Pharazon? The surname of a once famous Dark Lord? Or like all things from decades ago, had it been lost in a trillion more crimes and genocides conducted by the Sith that had followed Ar-Pharazon. So she continued. “And these are scattered sisters and witches of our burned world. If you have the means to restore our fountains and streams, I would be most grateful.” And the girls around the campfire stood awe of whatever the two spacers could bring. Their eyes were and their faces expectant, their food momentarily forgotten. 

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Sarlacc nodded, taking in their newfound host’s name. It rang a bell faintly in his mind; but not one he could recall. 
 

The Duros could not or did not ever seem to smile. Which one, nobody was sure of. Still, his eyes glowed warmly, even without pupils. “We would be honored to camp amongst you, but we do not believe in something for nothing and must insist on providing aid how we may. If it would be easier, we are willing to remain aboard our ship. To take the few rare resources available to your own would be rude and without honor.” He spoke, looking at the leader of the group before turning his gaze to the wide eyes that glimmered with possible hope all about them. “I am but a humble traveler and agriculturist. Our friends and brethren are the true masters of resurrecting life from destruction. To purge the poisons of hate from a world requires a magic beyond that even offered by the force.”  The Duros was keenly aware of his choice of words, filled with tinges of promises of life and unseen power. He spoke smoothly and carefully, weaving his words together with the promise of better tomorrows and the cleansing powers of light and life. “Perhaps, we ought to complete our meal together and get to know each other. Then Brother Svata and I shall return to our ship. In the morning, we would gladly share a meal of our rations with you all and then we might begin the arduous first steps of rejuvenating the life that lies dormant within the world.”

 

Hefting his own portion of rancor flesh, the Jensaarai tore off a chunk and chewed at it with a calm dedication before swallowing. He offered a coy wink to Svata before facing Telperiën and warmly attempting to urge her to continue, “What of you ma’am? How did you come to be a part of the High Coven Myrkengodi?” In truth, The Sarlacc did not know anything of the Dathormiri ways or what even the High Coven Myrkengodi was. He hoped that between he and Svata, they could learn much of the people who inhabited this world. To learn or their ways would only further their understanding and help them better bring prosperity to their world before vanishing back into the shadows.

 

 

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The young women and girls at the fire looked at each other quizzically and Telperiën finally spoke. Her voice reflecting the general mood of the nightsisters and witches. 

 

“Why would an entire organization help us? We are nothing to the galaxy.” 

 

It was not a self defeating prophecy, it was simply the truth as far as the dirt streaked girls could think. What was there on this world that attracted the attention of the galaxy? Did they want to export mud, or extort some yet unmined mineral. 

 

“Help is not given freely, and deed carries a debt. This is the law of nature. This is the law of the predator. This is the law of Dathomir. To accept help without debt is to accept weakness. We are a broken people. But not a helpless one.” Her voice lowered and the embers began to die down, now a dark orange that barely shone above the starlight. “If there is a deal to be made we would make it. But we are no charity.” 

 

She cocked her head to the side and held out a hand. The fire jumping back up to full brightness. She asked a probing question that hinted at her lack of ignorance. 

 

“Are you working with the survivors foundation?” That jedi aligned group that had restored old Naboo. “It does not matter of course, for if you can return life to the world we would give you many slaves. And gladly for it.” 

 

She sat back down indicating that they should eat, and break out the rations. 

 

“The coven is all that remains of the sisters of the night. Those the Jedi would call ‘darksiders,’ though i would spit at that definition. All animals must have pack leaders, and Dathomiri are no different.” She snapped her finger and one of the girls brought out a jug of alcohol that they passed around. “The coven, like  the sisters before them, are merely the alpha pack.”

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The Sarlacc coughed softly to stifle a chuckle at the mention of the Survivor’s Guid. He raised his eyebrow ridges, an entertained look of surprise flashing across his wrinkled face. ‘But not all animals, run in packs. Sarlaccs and dragons perhaps.’ He mused silently. 
 

The Defender had been able to sense the darkness that poured from the people, from the very land. Now here it was presented openly, without shame.  Healing lands was an easier feat than healing hearts; still, it could be done. “Ah. The Jedi,”  he sighed as if releasing a bond of inner turmoil. “Your people were not tormented by them. If they were, this world would be left untouched or forsaken, lifeless, to the ravages of time. You see, my people. We were hunted by the Jedi. They sought to remove any trace of us from existence; branding us darksiders not worthy to go on living. And yet,”  he slowly stood, placing a firm hand on Svata’s shoulder, “here we are.”

 

Gesturing to the savage women about them with his free hand, he nodded. “You have survived the ravages of your own darkness; but look at you. Living in tents, barely more than survivors. Look at us? Do we want for anything? We come and go as we please; unfettered by the forces of light or dark. In a moment, Brother Svata and I could call forth the swarms of heaven; shadowy wraiths to strike down any who stood against us; to rend justice and fade to the ether as if they were never there. The shadows of ghosts are ours to command. Their blades the only reality about them.”

 

Turning his unblinking gaze back to Telperiën, he paused for a moment. “Yet we come here as emissaries of peace.” Slowly, the spacer lowered himself back to his seat, a position to negate any hostility his words might have implied inadvertently. “You are right though. We do not offer our aid for free. Of slaves, we have no use. We care for one another in all. What we desire is much more simple, yet covetous. We can help your world, yet you must be willing to allow it. Open your minds and together, your world might be saved. In exchange, we seek one thing. Knowledge. Knowledge that, if destroyed, by the Jedi, Sith, or your own magicks, will ensure that your ways are not lost. We will help you. In exchange, we will learn your ways and grow in them. Your ways will live on and we will preserve your very essence.”

 

The Sarlacc picked up the last shreds of rancor flesh and turned them over in his hand, pondering them, yet never taking his eyes off those around them. They were outnumbered and surrounded. Their strength lay in their very abilities as Jensaarai and without revealing themselves, the words rang with truth. He turned to one of the thinned women nearest him and offered the hunk of meat. “Kindness is not weakness. Hatred is weakness. Kindness grows the pack and this care for the pack makes us stronger. What do you say witch?” The title was not used derogatorily, but formed and spoke with respect to the authority such a title might entail in a foreign society; akin to that of Defender amongst their own.

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Camik listened to the three speak. Telperien was the only voice that that truly head any sway for him but even her words, while holding some wisdom were not words that swayed him.  Perhaps they did not understand him. He wondered how much he should try and explain.  It might help his training, it might not. In the end he decided to give a bit more of an explanation. 


 

”Emotions are tools, love, hate, anger sadness all have their usefulness. Hate and anger are strong emotions that have a place in me and while I am not looking for happiness that is not because I am so filled with hate that I have no room for it but instead my experiences have formed me into someone that seeks security first. ” 

 

He looked at Telperien. ”Your story spoke of how a sister of great power left and returned only to bring death and destruction to her once home but did not say if this brought her happiness or sadness. Her hate that she had tended bloomed and she destroyed those that she believed had wronged leaving a path of destruction in her path. Her hate had external consequences but what did it do for her?  I am guessing she left this place with her lovers and found new things to spend her time on. ” 

 

He turned to Svata ”You say anger makes a fool of us all but if I grow angery for you trying to assume that the sum of my experiences have no meaning and I should forget them and I kill you for it, would that make me a fool?  Hate and anger are only a tool. Unrestrained anything is a difficult ‘worm’ to control but that dosn’t stop people from loving unconditionally and doing dumb things with that?” 

 

”If I were to take my hate and anger and like the sister turn it to those that have wronged me in the past, working to eraticate slavery. I am sure there would be spill over and innocents would be harmed in the process but in the end I would have my revenge and those that thought to pick up a lash would be more hesitant in the future. I could not do this task with love or compassion driving me. I do not know the people that are already under the lash. I do know those that are not yet born. Pride in my race might be a strong enough emotion but pride is a selfish emotion and only a short stop away from anger. 

 

Every emotion can be used and controlled it is only through my Will am I able harness it.” 

 

His first master had encouraged him to find his own code. At the time he struggled with the concept and had put it out of his mind but had he stumbled upon the beggins of it?  He took a bite of the Rancor and waited for the retort that he knew was coming.

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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."

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Telperiën’s eyes glanced between her apprentice and the Ryn. She opened her mouth for a moment then quickly shut it, grinding whatever fast retort she had to dust between her clenched jaws. Who were these men? But she would answer them each in turn. 

 

“Camik, while true they are tools to be used, I am merely suggesting that using them constantly is not only detrimental, but completely destructive to your journey and your goals. That Sister who left and brought destruction to the homeworld was my Mother. Though I am a product of her endeavours, it is also because of her that millions died. My sire and her lover was a great lord of Darkness. One that kept the galaxy firmly within his grasp before he too was cut down. Who now remembers him? Only bitter enemies and childless mothers. It is because of him and my mother that this galaxy now lies in ruins. They undermined the peace and security of that great Galactic Alliance.” 

 

She cocked her head to the side and looked deeply into the fire. As if to watch the spirits that danced there. 

 

“She died dissatisfied and alone and no one buried her bones in the crypts of our mothers.” The girls around the fire looked shocked and spit a hurried incantation towards the fire. “Yes, her spirit wanders far from the world she destroyed. So what is the lesson, is it never to use hate? Never to touch anger? To be besotten fools without emotions like the Jedi? No.” She looked back towards her apprentice. “But they must only be used when they have their utmost effect. They are not a table to constantly sup at. For in doing so you will mark your own destruction. That is the lesson, though I must warn you if you seek to destroy slavery, that the path you are on will not satisfy you.”

 

She let her gaze wander to the others around the fire before resettling on the Sith Apprentice. 

 

“Will your blade stop at the neck of the Dark Lord? Will you crumble the Empire? For they all bring and benefit from slavery.  Or is your purpose to bring enough power to enslave those that were cruel to you as a child?” 

 

She looked to the Duros who went by the tatooine sand creatures name. 

 

“Kindness is a doorway in which weakness can enter and is not our way. For does the Sarlaac ever let its prey go out of kindness of heart? Kindness is not the way of nature. Nature is brutal and unrelenting. Can a sister live and not hunt for herself? No, the pack is weaker when you freely provide for all.” The girls who had eaten the freely offered rancor meat glanced quickly at each other before Telperiën held out a calming hand. “But we will not turn away strangers at the door. For they can be useful.” 

 

She looked back at the Rynn and Duros. 

 

“So you too are force users, then you are more than welcome at our table. Such as it is.  Our knowledge is yours to do with what you will. should you heal our world." She retrieved a knife from her side and plunged it freely into her palm, the blood spashing and bubbling from the wound to fill her palm. Dripping between her shaking fingers to disappear into the dark loamy earth. "A deal is struck.” And she tossed the knife to the duros. 

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The knife twirled and arced through the air reflecting the flickering lights of the crackling fire into countless momentarily displays of shimmering light. The Sarlacc reached up with a hand and caught the spinning weapon by the hilt and lowered it down, his forearm coming to rest on his knee in one flyid, force-imbdued moment. A moment contained within the protective sphere the Duros still maintained to shield Svata’s and his own connection to the force from the outside. The blade hung loosely in his hand. “The Sarlacc is a beast of many mysteries. None of which I am fool enough to claim to undetstand. A god and a demon; a protector and destroyer; master of all and servant to all; it’s ways are above that of our minds.”


Slowly, he pushed himself to his feet. The knife dangling loosely from his hand still. ”If we are to lend you aid. We will need to see the devastations wrought upon your world firsthand. To learn of that which was, is, and could yet be; of those who walk the lands. Together, your world can be brought back from the edge. In the morning, perhaps you can show us these things.”

 

Looking at Svata, The Sarlacc nodded slowly. “We will have to contact my associates and our friends if we are to help these sisters.”

 

Turning his gaze back to the sisters, the Sarlacc placed the blade of the primitve knife against his palm and squeezed it. He let go of the hilt and when blood dripped from his clenched fist, he dropped the blade to the burnt soil. Extending his palm open, he glanced down at the green blood dripping from it and then back at Teleperiën. “A predator may be fearsome alone; but imagine what two predators, or three, a pack, could accomplish together.”

 

The Jensaarai Defender paused to allow his apprentice to say his piece before they returned to their ship. He had messages to relay and if the Sisters intended to uphold their end of the deal, so would he. In the morning, they would make themselves part of the Nightsister clans and await the arrival of their allies.

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The force moved. Safely at first, like a breeze against the back of her neck that stiffened into a wind when the duros caught the gently tossed blade. She inclined her head in agreement and turned back to the girls and her apprentice around the fire. They finished their food and pitched their tents, leaving a good amount of food out to eat should more join them during the long night. 

 

When Telperiën awoke she let the force flow through her, the crystals at her wrists softly glowing in the dawn light. She breathed in and caught the scent. Her blood. On the Duros’ palm. It did not take her long to find the ship after she roused the rest of the camp. 

 

She knocked on the landing ramp. The cluster of girls crouching in the low shrubbery beside her. The dawn showing their dirty faces. 

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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."

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Camik awoke with Telperien rousing the camp. He was never one to wake slowly. Years of being roused from sleep abruptly had taught him the perils of being sluggish when he woke. His mind went back to the conversation of the night before in front of the fire.  His pride had wanted to respond to the comment of being called a fool. He had started to respond but realized it was a waste of his breath. This Svata would never understand and it didn’t bother Camik in the least if he didn’t.  He was here to improve himself and if some stranger didn’t understand the inner workings of his brain then that was too bad. 

 

The Sarlac though seemed to offer help a bit too quickly, something Telperien jumped upon when given the opportunity. He did not know what the blood pact would do but he had no doubt that Telperien would use it to her advantage. Hers and her people. 

 

He moved with the sisters, wondering what Telperien had in mind for this morning but for now he simply drew in the force and moved as quietly as he could.  

 

He had mentally sent the Rancor off to hunt. There was a time and a place to have such a creature but this was not it.  Something of its size was powerful but it was also huge and loud. Not something he wanted to deal with right now.

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The early arrival of the locals was expected by The Sarlacc and he was ready for them. He had not scurried to meet them when the witch and company arrived; instead, he had made his way to the small dining suite and began to lay out an array of fruits and assorted pastries from across the cultures of the galaxy. Turning on the heating element of the countertop cooker, he began to prepare a variety of meats from across the galactic spectrum. Soon enough the smell of the cooking flesh mingled with the sweet sugars of the other breakfast dishes as they wafted through the ship.

 

Flipping his spatula in his bandaged hand, the Duros winced briefly as the haft pressed the tightly bound poultice of healing herbs from his travels into his wound. A slight adjustment and concentration on the waves of force energy that rippled freely about the ship and he was back to his task at hand.

 

There was no need to hide their presence any further, the visitors would know of their connection to the force soon enough. There were secrets of the Jensaarai that went beyond the force. Even as it flowed freely, a Jensaarai was a mysterious vortex within the flow, natural and alluring. 
 

Svata had gone to greet their local guests; his shrill whistle echoing down the hall of the ship notified The Sarlacc that things were progressing as  planned.
 

Offering a wide open gesture of welcome to those who came aboard, The Sarlacc spoke warmly, “Greetings friends. Please partake in what humble offerings we can share.” 


Once everyone had gathered what food they wanted and taken a seat in the cramped dining hall, The Sarlacc called their attention to a display screen at the far end. The room doubled as a sort of ad hoc war room in times of emergency. “Friends, please let me show you what could be.” A short film that showed panning views of the luscious Naboo countryside, frigid wind swept Hoth, the jungles of  Devaron, and much more; villages, farms, bustling spaceports played across the screen. All of it narrated by a warm feminine voice that described the benefits of bringing one’s newfound world into connection with the greater universe. The video was a carefully reformatted piece of Imperial propoganda designed to encourage newfound species to willfully accept the aid of recently arrived offworlders.

 

As the video came to an end, The Sarlacc cleared his throat. “You have seen the worlds we have been to. Our people are already coming to help nurse your world into what you have seen. All you need do is show us your world and let your people speak of what they desire; jungles or plains, deserts or wooded hills. Teach us your ways.”

 

The night before, upon returning to their ship, the Jensaarai had sent transmissions out to a variety of beings with questionable transceiver codes about the galaxy. It would be a little over a week before they would arrive, accompanying a band of Ithorian horticulturalists and agriculturalists and a select few Jensaarai Defenders. Until then, The Sarlacc and Svata were at the mercy of their hosts. The Duros looked forward to learning more about these witches and their kin, even if they resonated with dark side power. He knew that both he and Svata were grounded in their commitments and experiences to the light side. Their cares, compassions, and desires enough to allow them to stand as starlight in the night.

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Telperiën waited for the rest of the girls and sisters to board as well as her Sith Apprentice before she followed them up the ramp. They lined the interior of the ship, hungry looking and dirty, their leather and hide armour seeming barbaric against the smooth interior hull of the ship. The various weapons they clutched in small hands also looked equally bizarre. Weapons of a time harkening humanity before spaceflight. Bows, quivers, spears. The weapons of savages. 

 

The girls did make an orderly line and gratefully accepted the food and drink the two spacers offered, though they waited until Telperiën had began to eat before they ate. WHen she had finished her meal she watched the holo presentation with a stoic expression placed across her face. 

 

Her voice was soft when she finally spoke. “Dathomir was never a beautiful world, and it certainly could never have been described as a gaia world like Naboo. We do not wish the life of city dwellers or farmers for that is the path of weakness and democracy. We are hunters. A restoration of the world to allow that lifestyle to return is all that we need.” 

 

She reached forward and tapped the planetary map where large swaths of the planet remained burned and barren. 

 

“A return of the forests and its fauna is all that we need. Though if you wish to bring settlers in for sport we would not be opposed. That sort of hunting we have not done in an age.” 

 

The girls said nothing but simply nodded and Telperiën grasped the scab of her earlier cut. She ripped it open and blood yet again purged forth, slowly at first then it began to cup in her hand. 

 

“Annah.” The young woman stood and closed her eyes fearfully. Telperiën flung the handful of blood onto her face causing the other woman to grimace for a moment beforeshe ran down the landing ramp into the underbrush. The eyes of the other girls followed her then looked back to the Nightsister. 

 

“The first lesson is the lesson of blood. Kaila and Liana and Jess.” The three girls stood as Telperiën tossed her knife to Camik. 

 

“Now do the same.” She said to Camik and the offworlders. “Draw your blood and the life that goes with it. I will teach you how to track.”

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20 hours ago, Telperiën Ar-Pharazon said:

“A return of the forests and its fauna is all that we need. Though if you wish to bring settlers in for sport we would not be opposed. That sort of hunting we have not done in an age.” 

 

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

 

21 hours ago, Telperiën Ar-Pharazon said:

“Now do the same.” She said to Camik and the offworlders. “Draw your blood and the life that goes with it. I will teach you how to track.”

 

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.

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Camik caught the knife deftly in the air as it was tossed to him. He looked at it for a moment before cutting his own palm.  The blood pooled in his hand and he could feel his own life apart of it. This blood in his palm was part of him even as it separated itself from his body. When enough of the blood had pooled he turned to one of the sisters and flung it upon them.  

 

As he did he took a deep sniff of the girl sent as he did. This was not how humans took in a scent, with their dead noses. When he did his nostrils flared and he opened his mouth to let the scent pass over the organ that resided in his mouth. This was a lesson in blood that she was teaching him and she was using tracking as the medium to do it, that was fine he would take any lesson though tracking was something that was in his blood. Learning to detect from scent was something he learned as a pup. 

 

 ”You asked me if I would enslave them. This is just one more reason not to.  Enslaving them would not produce the results you want for this exercise.”

 

It seemed that even if human hunting had gone out of fashion, something that Teleperien was going to bring back starting with these three sisters. He doubted this would be a straight forward hunt and that just made it sound all the more fun.

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As the three girls ran off into the underbrush, Telperiën wiped her bloody hand on her tunic and looked at the three force users. Her amethyst eyes glanced across their alien features in a look that was partway between disgust and reservation. The question was on her mind of course, could they even attempt the blood magic her people had perfected for so many generations? Or would they dismiss it as useless knowledge that served little better than a high powered ship scanning array? 

 

“Now sit and close your eyes.” 

 

When they had done so she knelt upon the decking at her feet. She looked down to her bleeding hand and then made a fist, squeezing more blood up and out of the open wound. 

 

“Those of us with weak lineage, using totems or traditional runes to fully access the force, what I will do is one such way, you may follow along but as you do not suffer from our curse it is not likely that it will do you very much more good.” 

 

She wiped the bloody hand across the decking in a arching circle in front of her, leaving a crimson smear that she dotted with a few other markings. Runic letters from the nightsisters unpublished grimoire, they were a stylized old basic, dating back to the first settlements of sisters during the old republic. 

 

“Let your mind focus on the wound, on each drop of blood that leaves your body. Feel the aching pain. Concentrate on it. Let the pain fill you. Harnessing the power you can feel from it. Now reach out and find the source of that pain. It will naturally draw you first to the knife that cut you but you must ignore the wounds desires and assert your own.” 

 

She took a breath and the blood arrayed before her began to glow with a faint luminescence. 

 

“Let your senses expand about you until you find the pains connection. Its missing piece.” 

 

A half mile away the girl who had received the first does of blood screamed as the blood that spattered her face began to smoke. Etching into her skin in permanent façade. 

 

“And when you find it. Mark it. Make the blood stay a part of you forever. Bind it to you and submit it to your will.” 

 

She let her eyes flutter open.

 

“And you will be able to track your mark for lightyears.” 

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The Sarlacc’s face remained expressionless as the woman continued her ritual, his apprentice following suit. The pain in the Duros own hand was enough to give him pause. Something just did not feel quite right.

 

His hesitation made the decision for him as the witch continued her explanations and demonstrations. In that moment, The Sarlacc felt the surge of the darkness as it gnawed at the power that surged across the planet uniting the blood-let life-bearing liquid across the quarries to the original owner.

 

Making his way off the ship with the others, The Sarlacc stared off in the direction of the fleeing minions; their pain echoing on the ripples of the force outside the blood cast  spell. Placing a warning hand on Svata’s shoulder, he squeezed it silently in cautious warning. They were here to learn, but they still had their own oaths to follow. These women followed a different set of guidance; one that differed greatly.

 

Still, the Jensaarai were here to help. Help, learn, and  discover. “Blood carries the gift of life. Be cautious spilling it brother.”

 

”Hunting your lessers? Is this how your people show their strength madam? Is that your curse? Or is it the curse of your world?” He enquired of the head of the witches.

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“Hunting is a two sided adventure Sir Sarlacc. And it is one the girls have to learn. Must learn. Life is not kind on Dathomir. And even less kind in the galactic disk.” 

 

Her pink purple eyes met his and she sighed. 

 

“In a way this is a simpler hunt than offworld. On Coruscant you are hunted by corporations for the contents of your wallet, on Nar Shaddaa you are hunted for the content of your character. Especially if you have the nature of darkness as my people do. But though it may be far more obvious here on Dathomir, you are hunted no less in the galaxy.” 

 

She laughed, her dark voice embodying bitterness. 

 

“So yes we will hunt these girls. Perhaps even hurt them if you wished, but it is for their own good. For they will learn lessons here that a child at the Rebel Base on Nar Shaddaa will never learn until a Sith Lord kills their family in front of them. They will learn to persist. To fight through pain, and to fight fiercely.” She pointed at a scar that crossed her neck. “It is how my people will survive. To turn from the hunted to the hunter. But to learn how to be a predator, you must first become prey.” 

 

She gave him a serious look. 

 

“We do not derive strength from schools or learning like the Jedi do. For a moment spent in study is a moment not preparing for a fight." 

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Camik sat as he was instructed and closed his eyes.  His mind cleared as he had long ago trained to do.  He did not believe that he had a weak linage but any tool he might learn was something that he might incorporate in the future. Even if his own power was stronger, this was a different way to accomplish the task.  After all he could always track through the girls scent but he had decided to learn this method to see what it led to.

 

He reached out and mimicked the writing that Telperien had done. It was cruder as he had never written in this language before but he tried to mimic it as best he could. 

 

With that done he reached out  to the blood. The blood that he had flung on the girl was apart him him. It didn’t matter how far from his body it was it was a part of him. The Force bound it to him despite the fact he had left his body.  He could feel the pain from the knife cut, his blood oozed from that wound. He focused on that pain, embracing it and feeding that feeling of pain into the blood. He amplified the feelings. Pain was good. Pain was life. Only the living felt pain, the dead knew nothing of it. Even this little bit of pain that he had inflicted was something he had embraced, but he knew that the other end of the blood was feeling more of the pain. He did not not know how he knew this but he knew it. It was if the pain was amplified by distance. HIs blood wanted to be apart of his body and was being punished for separating from his body.  

 

Most of all he could feel the where his blood was.

 

He borught his senses to the present and listened ot the conversation that went on. It was mildly amusing but it seemed to be a bit naive from the Sarlacc’s perspective. 

”Do you not eat? Even if you have someone else hunt those creatures you are benefiting from someone hunting beings that are lesser than you.  The hunt is primal and brings strength. Being passive only brings atrophy.”  Camik was not a part of this society and yet he could still see. These girls would grow stronger from the experience. 

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The Sarlacc simply shook his head. Gesturing for the group to make their way off the ship. Stepping back to the charred soil of the world, the Duros paused, “We have been the hunted and we hunt, not for food, but for survival as well. It is a similarity between our peoples. Nor do we teach in hallowed halls as the Jedi do. To live is to be hunter and hunted. We do not hunt our own though.”

 

The defender felt the ripples of the force as the others around them reached out to seek their quarry on it’s guiding hands. The call of the blood flowed on the force. For in blood, there was life, and life was an aspect that a Defender sought to defend. Nodding the his apprentice, The Saracc turned to their hosts, his voice jovial. “Perhaps the last to find the quarry provides the evening meal?” 


And with that and a leap, The Sarlacc was off. Crouched low he surged forward through the brush, weaving and twisting to pass without a trace. The Duros’ mind reqched out to touch and meld with every passing branch, rock, and clod, his very essence within the force spreading outwards in a thin veil as he joined himself with the world around him on a base level until one could sense that he did in fact exist; but was a part of all things. His mind felt for the girls, tasting then in the force as he moved, a blur of spacer and world bound together completely on the wings of the force.

 

 

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Telperiën  pursued her own quarry at a walk, letting the force work its own magik. She flicked the knife up again and pressed it deeply into the long scar on her arm before casting the knife into the dirt. Tendons screeched their protest, muscle tore, and blood was let free to seeth in rivulets down her arm, which she collected gladly with her free hand. She flung the blood into a circle around her and knelt, licking the remaining blood from her fingers. Now the force of Dathomir could really show itself. 

 

Terror

 

Its threads were as thick as old cobwebs over the world. Stretched from almost every being to every other being. Her mouth moved in a ritualistic chant as she began to pull on those threads of terror. She traced them to the girls running, and amplified the terror until it was overwhelming.

 

________

 

The girls made their runs as fast as they could, but none could meet the power of the Jenssarai or the speed of the Sith Apprentice. But they had the burning pain of the blood magic spurring them on, and the prospects of a punishment so they did their utmost to escape. Their terror could be tasted like a thick film on the force, bubbling out of them as they ran. Terror embodied the spirit of Dathomir, and they ran from the force users as fast as their feet could take them. For they did not know what fate would await them. 

 

Kaila, the youngest in her middle teen years ran until the blood from her bare feet and rough ground was as visible as her terror in the force. When at last she could not go any further in the rough ground she turned on Sarlacc with a cry of pain and terror. The force moving through her as she threw whatever she could reach at the Duros knight. Sobbing tears that ran trails through the ash and dirt that streaked her face. 

 

Kirain, a young woman in the later years of her teens turned ferociously upon Camik as he tracked her down. Her face was a mask of horror as she flung everything from rocks to tree branched as the young man in an attempt to get away.

 

The fastest runner among the girls, Saeth, lasted the longest before the terror overcame her too. Instead of fighting like the others she collapsed into a begging sobbing mess at Savata’s feet.

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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.

Edited by Nok Morliss
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Spread across the horizon, The Sarlacc could feel the very world as it shifted on the force. Darkness and terror oozed from the very planet and all that called it home. It was a place not of civilization and furtherance of life, but a place of barbarism and the struggle to simply survive by whatever means. The future did not hold much sway here. The present was what mattered. Any means to acquire the edge was acceptable. Thus so, the dark side grew; a cancer in the shadows. 
 

‘So had it been for the Jensaarai,’ The Sarlacc observed silently, his body barely touching the ground as he surged onwards towards the pulse of the furthest girl he could sense. He trusted his apprentice would be fine. He was firm in his understandings, settled into his ways as only one who had seen a lifetime of experiences pass before him could be. Unlike many apprentices, Svata could be left completely untended; where his training ended, his experience would make up for. The Sarlacc had seen into the old man’s heart and knew it to be a kindred spirit. They would rendezvous when they were able to determine what observations the other had made and decide how to proceed. For now though, there was something more pressing calling out. Life.

 

The Duros barely left a trail, his Jensaarai training helping hin pass through brush and scrub, trees and earth, with nigh a trace. Spread across and bound to the presence of the force in all things across the world, he followed the terror that emanated from one of the girls until she came into sight. 
 

He slowed as he approached, calling out to her, “Hello miss.” The Sarlacc did not manage another word as the girl turned with a cry that resonated with fear and began to hurl rocks, branches, clods of dirt, and whatever else her bloodied dirt-stained fingers could grasp. 
 

The force surged, the girl’s fear and pain feeding it’s unfathomable hunger. The Jensaarai Defender paused for a moment as he sought to comprehend just how dark and far from the ordinary this situation and world had become. It was but for a moment. The onslaught of makeshift projectiles drawing him back to reality.

 

Drawing his concentration back from the world around him, The Sarlacc focused on the task at hand. Each projectile he waves a hand towards and sent sailing aimlessly off in another direction. Some pinging and cracking off nearby trees and rocks, others burying themselves in or exploding upon contact with the hard earth. 
 

“I will not hurt you,” he spoke, his voice strong and calm. “Let me help you. Whatever it is you fear, let me protect you. There is more than a life of fear and darkness.” The Defender’s voice was layered with a calming warmth, seeded with the light of the force and the light of compassion. He hated seeing this poor fellow being in such pain and fear. The darkness that radiated from this world needed purged and it’s people saved. He would start here, with this one if he could. 
 

“Please. Come with me.” he pled firmly, leaving the choice to the girl as he maintained the distance from her; stepping when she stepped and stopping when she stopped. All the while, anything the girl threw he sent rocketing outward from them, his mind focused on the girl, the warmth of the force flowing from he to her in an effort to assuage her fears and comfort her scared and scarred mind.

 

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The threads of the Terror moved beneath Telperiën’s fingers as she called upon the force. Each thread connected to a tired and scared mind. Each pluck like on a harp brought a scream of fright. There was so much power there, so much potential. But it required so much power, and it was exhausting, even with the pain from her arm to sustain her bodies desire. The power, of course, was addicting and Telperiën bathed in that addiction. Wallowed in it. Covered herself in their pain, in their Terror. 

 

She supped on it, feeding like an Anzati on brain matter. The power coursed through her veins like a self consuming fire. Delicious as it was painful. Controlling even willing minds had its own cost of course. But this was another lesson to give to the offworlders and her apprentice. Two separate lessons in one. The price of power and its allure.  

 

A throbbing pain struck at where she had cut her arm and a single glance told her that it was time to stop. For the next Curse had awakened. And Telperiën fell back from her circle of blood, exhausted. 

 

________

And so Kaila was released from the terror. Her eyes unfocusing for a moment before she burst into tears and embarrassedly stopped her retreat. She whispered an apology and followed the Duros. Tears trickling through the dust on her face. 

________

 

Saeth was the first to return, her small form barely stumbling into the shade of the transport, she was grasping an offworlder’s canteen in her tired hands. Trembling from the aftereffects of terror and exhaustion. Telperiën greeted her with a kindly smile and a motherly embrace. And whispered for her to take a place at the fire, which she gladly did. It was a long time from that point until the older offworlder appeared, somehow looking even more old and tired than he had when he had left to pursue Saeth. Telperiën looked up from where she knelt and sprang to her feet, Saeth joining her as they brought him a plate of food and his own canteen. 

 

Telperiën sat down next to him wiping at the blood that was still seeping from the deep cut in her arm, the surrounding flesh somehow having already gone black with dead flesh.

 

“Failure is never an option, Svata.” She looked to the tired Ryn and grinned a toothy grin. Teeth which were surrounded by gums that showed an unhealthy hue of red.  “But you found one of my sisters and rescued her, so you did not fail.”

 

She coughed and sat back. 

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3 hours ago, Telperiën Ar-Pharazon said:

“Failure is never an option, Svata.” She looked to the tired Ryn and grinned a toothy grin. Teeth which were surrounded by gums that showed an unhealthy hue of red.  “But you found one of my sisters and rescued her, so you did not fail.”

 

She coughed and sat back. 

 

 

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."

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The Sarlacc extended an open hand to the girl, helping to guide her along the uneven ground back along the way they had individually journeyed. He could sense the woman’s fatigue and hopelessness and so, the going was slow. He went as slow as she needed, helping her over and around any obstacles that threatened to overcome the girl. Her feet were hardened and calloused  by years trodding the dirt, much like her spirit. Still, beneath it all, she was still a vulnerable little girl.

 

After hours of slow going, kind words of encouragement and an aura of light sided force rebuffs against the creeping darkness, the duo made their way not back to the camp, but to the Jensaarai scout vessel. Seeing the hesitation in the girl’s face, The Sarlacc paused, “Its ok little sister. You will be safe aboard our ship. I do not know what powers these witches have; but we will do what we can to ensure you are not subjected to such tortures again.”

 

Ascending the ramp, he led Kalia aboard, “We can find you a room to rest up in and get you some food and tend to your injuries.” The Sarlacc took Kalia to the individual quarters on the ship, gathered some clean robes for her, and left the girl to freshen up and rest. The secure areas of the ship were safe enough to prevent unauthorized snooping or theft, everything else was fair game. 
 

Removing himself, the Duros retreated to the galley where he set about preparing a platter of differing cheeses, cold meats, and breads. Depositing that outside Kalia’s door, The Sarlacc made his way to the small open training room on the ship.

 

There, the Jensaarai defender stripped off his bulky spacer suit down to his simple flowing robes and drew his knobby lightsaber hilt, extending the Byzantium hued blade with a soft hiss. 
 

Regarding the blade for a moment, The Sarlacc fell into a familiar step, his feet moving in a natural sync with the blade is it swirled slowly at first. Each step increased the speed of the twisting martial dance. The force flowed freely from the Defender, through the warrior, and back into him from the world about him it’s purity abd holiness purging him of darkness and the taint of the world they found themselves on. Even the air about him crackled with purifying energy. With each tension of muscle and arcing change of momentum, The Sarlacc fell deeper into the force, his individual self became lost in the dance bending the line between man and saber, being and force, conscious and unconscious; all of them coalescing into almost one.

 

The Duros mind was lost in the dance, his senses extending in every direction and yet focused on the blade as it passed within millimeters of his body with each flick of his wrist and twist of his body. Sweat poured from his body as he pushed himself to the edge of physical exertion and beyond. The force carried him.

Edited by Leena Kil
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