Jul 30 2007 12:48am
Bei-diang, Capitol of Sinsang
The path one walks can be a confusing thing.
Some are born on to a path, and walk it for their whole life. Never questioning, never wanting, just simply following it. Some even enjoyed the path given. It was the way of things in many places still in the Outer Rim. You were born the son of a farmer, you in turn became a farmer, and your child followed the tradition. Politicians, soldiers, millers, shipwrights, and so many others. It was simply the flow of things.
But where did these loops begin? Where did these loops end?
Humankind did not start off with many of these loops. Many at one point had an ancestor that chose to walk that path. Yet why was it so difficult to break something so old? Was it just the desire of people to find something comfortable and to stay with it? Some misplaced sense of obligation due to tradition? Or was it like some philosophers thought, and that people were trapped in their positions?
But just as these paths can seem so set, the can just as easily change. A generation can change so much of the path of a family. A child gifted in a certain field may find it easier to pursue a richer path. Perhaps the field becomes richer than before and they change from the owner of a store to the owner of a company. Sometimes these paths changed thanks to circumstance. A business stops being profitable and the children must move on to elsewhere or live a life of poverty.
The galaxy was in chaos. It had been since the Clone Wars. Very few knew what it was like to live in a galaxy that wasn’t split from war and different political views. And in these times, very few kept the paths they had. Planets were destroyed as other planets changed. Cultures and civilizations rose and fell as the powers of those around them waxed and waned.
Men changed from peasants to grand admirals to criminals then back to heroes. What was left of those that came before? There was a time where Luke Skywalker walked the streets of Coruscant as a hero and liberator. The saviour of the Force and of the Republic. From a planet few had heard of before, to a place that none shall forget. Endor changed from a mystery to a legend.
And what did all these things do to the paths and loops of the galaxy?
Irtar sat in his office on Sinsang, puzzling over his situation. HIS path. HIS life. HIS loop. What he had gained and lost from his pursuit to change what he was and to become something better. And here he was, about to loose what little he had left.
He had left the Jedi, been shunned by his family, and now he was about to walk out on the only thing he had left. He looked down at the datapad and heaved a sigh. Was it all worth it? Would he create any more of a difference on the path he was going to go on or would it just be the same? So far everything he had to tried to do had resulted in nothing. The only thing that had accomplished something was Sinsang, but there he was but a puppet and it only helped bring money to the coffers of some corporations.
“Ambassador Mal’Gro.” Came a feminine voice that cut through his thought. Irtar suddenly shook his head, as if waking up from a dream. He pressed the button on the intercom.
“Huh?” Irtar dumbly asked in his attempt to seem fully conscious. He felt like the kid the teacher caught sleeping in class.
“Chairman Chao is here to see you.” His secretary said, as it dawned on Irtar exactly how long he had been running over this.
“It’s four already? Uhm, yes. Send him in.” Irtar fumbled out, straightening himself up. The large Sinsangese man entered the room with a stern look on his face. Chao obviously knew something was up. “Please, uhm, take a seat. So how’re you and your wife?”
“Well. She is with her sister and the children in the mountains. I’ll be joining them this evening. But I’d like to hope you hadn’t asked for a meeting to discuss my family’s well being.” Chao said as a tint of chill came to his voice. “I hope this is to explain your recent comings and goings without informing us?”
“Well, it’s about that actually!” Irtar said, tapping the datapad in his hand trying to build up the courage he needed. After all Chao had done to help him, and he was about to throw everything back in his face. What for? Some strange Jedi’s crusade?
No. He wasn’t doing this for Ahnk’s crusade.
He was doing this for the Sith. He was doing this for the suffering they caused. He was doing this because if he didn’t, no one would. The Jedi disbanded and the Coalition barely existed now. The only hope for the people behind the Empire to be stopped. For the Sith and their merciless ways to be kept at least in check.
“And…?” Chao said expectantly, forcing Irtar to address him. The Sinsangese man’s eyes boring into Irtar to try and dig out the truth. Irtar looked away as he took one last look over the datapad.
“Well, I ran into this Jedi Master. He’s offered to teach me how to properly use the Force. Not this random lashing out and such I do.” Irtar said simply, to which a small smile was elicited from Chao.
“That is good. I know you’ve been looking for one for a time, Irtar. Congratulations. But I assume you didn’t request to speak to me just because you have a teacher.” Chao said, casting Irtar a serious gaze. “You’ve never been good at hiding your thoughts and concerns.”
Irtar frowned at the comment, less out of offense and more out of it just being pointed out. He was still thinking as a politician. That you need to master your face to show the expressions you want to show, not the expressions that you actually feel. Ironically, being a Jedi was very much like being a politician in that regard. Well, at least the traditional Jedi. It was very appropriate he would be neither.
“Well… here.” Irtar said flatly with a tinge of pain coming to his voice as he forced himself to let go of the datapad. Chao took the thing and after just a brief moment he looked back to Irtar with a tinge of surprise and even betrayal on his face.
“This is a letter of resignation.” Chao said, obviously restricting himself from allowing himself to go full out. He was a good politician but when the public wasn’t watching, Chao’s emotions were not always kept as much in check.
“Well y’see, my Master wants me to focus on my training and my purpose and not on, y’know, politics. Says that they’ll add a secondary intention and such to my actions and all these more concerns. That I need to ‘shed myself of my restrictions’ or something like that.” Irtar rambled out in short succession. “And well, it was my only chance to get the proper lessons and, and…”
Chao’s face had darkened immensely. His fists were clenched and his knuckles were turning white. He looked at Irtar with this look of anger combined with animosity. It was enough to silence the now Rogue Jedi in his explanation. Irtar shrunk a bit backwards into his seat as Chao just stared at him.
“Resignation accepted, Mister Mal’Gro.” Chao said with just the slightest tinge of anger on his voice. “And I expect you cleared out of your office and off the premises by the end of the day.”
With not another word, Chao got up and left. And with a loud thud, the door slammed behind Chao and Irtar was left to pack up what belongings he had in his office.
Irtar just slumped in his chair, feeling low for what he’d done. With the recent troubles Sinsang has been having thanks to Coalition’s weakened position Chao has had his hands full and would rarely find a moment of peace. Unfortunately, now Chao had to wait for whatever idiot the Coalition sent to his doorstep next. It could be better, or it could be worse but Irtar doubted his replacement would be a Jedi from a nearby planet.
Finally, Irtar began to gather up what few belongings he had into a simple cardboard box. Photos of his family, a couple of parts from some side-projects he was working on in his spare time, and even a couple of books he had on Sinsangese and Coalition law that were in near mint condition.
When Irtar left the room, his former secretary was there cleaning up to. Irtar frowned a bit when he saw a direct repercussion of his action that had harmed someone. He didn’t think that when he left they’d just up and sack his secretary to.
“I’m sorry… did they fire you since I left?” Irtar asked with regret on both his voice and face. He really didn’t want to be responsible for someone who helped him getting unemployed so he could try to play at hero.
“Oh? No. They’re just moving me.” She said with a dismissive wave of her hand. Irtar’s face visibly relaxed from that. He already had Chao angry at him, he didn’t need another person cursing his name. “Don’t worry about it. We have a decent union. Oh, and don’t worry about that dinner tonight. I was just about to call to have it cancelled.”
“Oh, good I wouldn’t want them to-” Irtar suddenly stopped as a realization dawned on him. “What dinner?”
Oct 11 2007 8:33am
"Why do I come here?"
The question was allowed to hang, heavy in the air, preventing further conversation but difficult enough to answer that it could not be so immediately done. It was like a pinhole in a pirate ship... innocuous air, left unmolested, with the potential to take away anything and everything that matters to you.
She was a beautiful woman. Legs that stretched for ages. Curves, sharp and soft. The hemlines and the headlines, all proportioned perfectly. But if one looked past the perfection, the true hideousness of what lay upon the bed began to become clear. A pair of sharp, black ridges burst free from her sickly green skin, positioned approximately where a human would find the back of their lungs game a pair of thick, black skeletal folds. If needed, they would fold out into a pair of wings, capable of giving the predator lift and thrust, allowing her to more easily devour that which she desired. Even now, dripping from the fangs inside of her mouth, dribbling in familiar patterns down the bends of her chin and neck, was the fluidic remnants of her last meal. There, were, of course, more.
Despite her flaws, though, she was still a beautiful woman. Her eyes were piercing, cutting their way through you as easily as would her claws, getting past the facades that were erected, and extracting the truth as if it were your heart. Sometimes... it was. Sometimes all you wanted to do was admit that you loved the one thing you couldn't bring yourself to bear. And sometimes you wanted to know why.
"I don't understand what I get from you."
She rolled over, turning on her hips, one leg sliding over the other and driving her momentum until she could face the man at the edge of the bed. She smirked at him and he glared into the open abyss, knowing before she did it how her hands would come to fall. This was not their first attempt at this conversation; it would likely not be their last.
"I can think of something..."
Her answer was the same. It was always the same. Both knew it to be a lie, but both accepted it to be true. What a man sought in the depths of the dark and what a man found were often two different things, but what a man found and what a man received differed in the same similaristic fashion. A search for answers revealing only questions is an answer in and of itself. And sometimes a naked woman on a bed is useful for exactly what you think she would be.
"I think you know what I mean."
He turned his head, back to her. His eyes met hers and her eyes darted away. There was something dishonest about maintaining this kind of relationship; something inherently unhealthy about fucking about inside your own brain. There had to be some reason he brought himself back here, to the destroyed house in the deserted woods, to make love to his dead wife. There was something it was trying to tell him...
Outside of his head, Andrew Micheal Ahnk Rashanagok had never met Emily Montague. Not this Ahnk Rasahanagok, in any case. He'd been grown around the time that she would have been taking charge of the Sith Order, and would have been imprisoned in the temples beneath her during her reign of terror. He was eventually released after her death, but he'd have never known her, either as the naive scientist that she was, or as the monster that she became.
Of course, he did know her. He knew her as the other Ahnk had known her; as a scientist, a silent witness, a subserviant subordinate. They'd never had this kind of relationship. And even so, that wasn't the same Ahnk. It was a different body, and a different brain. The memories and feelings that were shared couldn't be strong enough to generate... this. Whatever this is.
There was something he did not see. Had not seen. Did not know. And could not figure out.
"Well, I have to go. I have a dinner to get to."
The woman on the bed smirked at him, a gesture he could feel gnawing at his back.
He frowned, and stopped at the door.
He pulled on the handle of the door, turning it in his grasp.
"Always coming and going, Mr. Rasahanagok. It's poor form."
His hand paused again.
"There's nothing more I need from you."
He'd turned his head. For a moment, they stared at each other, him frowning, her grinning. When she said nothing, he turned back around, a grin taking his features as well. She was playing with him. She nothing, and was as clueless as he was. He would need to answer his own questions.
As the man stepped from the door, his smile faded... he had not heard that name for a long time... a long time.
Andrew Rashanagok looked down at his leg. The cut was nasty, and deep. He could see clear white, telling him it had reached the bone. He sighed, reaching behind him. His backpack was a mess, but finding the bottle of Sasoma he had brought with wasn't too hard, as it was the largest item inside. He pulled it from his bag, using his teeth to rip off the top of the bottle. Then, without any further hesitation then he could humanly manage, he emptied the contents on the wound within his flesh.
He strode into the temple hall without pomp or circumstance. His entrance was silent, but not quiet, as the actions of those around him filled the dusty stone halls with conversation and speculation. Who was this man, the strange man in the black cloak? He looked like a throwback to a different generation of Sith. He wore his hair long and dark, flowing into the hood that covered his robes, his face was heavy and worn, but without the scratches normally appreciated to a master of the dark arts. He moved without hesitation and with a certain elemantal grace belying a confidence, and his silence spoke to his arrogance. This was not a place for outsiders. This was hallowed ground.
Into the deepest depths of the Sith Temple had he came. Into the very heart of the Massassi Grand Temple he walked, wordlessly. He answered no query, and took no inventory. He kept his eyes forward and unmoving, even as his legs continued to propel him forward. He had a certain destination, but he left it unstated, asking no direction. He made the turns as a man who had been here before, but turned heads as a stranger to these eyes. They watched him, and waited. He was walking into trouble.
Finally, he stopped. His flowing robes continued for a second, and jerked back as his momentum ended, falling in around his stoic form. He reached up and pulled the hood from his head, and slowly stepped from the dark black cloth.
The assembled Sith were not impressed. They looked at him and scoffed. Who was he, to flagrantly encroach upon their home? Who did he answer as? Answer to? From whom was this insult delivered? And for what reason? As they snickered at him, one face stood out amongst the crowd. And it was the face at which he store. She smirked in reply, allowing the cigara in her hand to fall, hitting the floor rather then her lips, and crushed under heel. If he was here for her, then he was here to die.
"So, stranger," she asked him, stepping forward, her black leather clutching tightly to her frame, the steel chains that crossed it allowing her lightstaber to hang free, tapping against the chains on her short black skirt, the ones that kept her blaster close at hand. "Do you have a name?"
He smiled at her. "Names are for friends, so I don't need one."
She smirked. A practical joker. "Well..."
"I know you who you are, Hellena Dritz, and I know what you are going to tell me, so do not extend this conversation any longer then it need be," the man said, still smiling that same pleasant smile.
Her expression soured instantly, frown replacing the grin, brow furrowing in displeasure. He was becoming less amusing by the second. "Alright then motherfucker, if you know who I am, and you know where you are, then what the fuck are you doing here, exactly?"
His expression became more serious. "It is my belief from my observation that your tenure at the head of this Sith Academy has allowed the fundamental pillars upon which the existence of the Sith Order exist to collapse and be forgotten, while you satisfy yourself with the power that your position provides. I find that to be an unacceptable use of the position and it is my intent to defeat you in a duel and claim the position as Dark Lord of the Sith and leader of the Sith Brotherhood."
The laughter that erupted across the room was deafening. Students of the order doubled over with the rediculousness of his statement, but the man in the middle of the room did not laugh, merely allowing his pleasant grin to return. Dritz matched his grin... she would have laughed, but she had to answer any challenge, no matter how rediculous. "Well, if you want to die, then let's dance."
He shook his head. "Not so fast. If we are indeed to dance as I desire, then I believe you are... overdressed." He raised a single eyebrow.
The chains wrapped around her hips and legs tore themselves free from her body, launching themselves into the walls, hitting against the rock and landing on the floor. The weapons they held to her body also went flying. As she looked down in annoyance, she grabbed the only weapon she was left, after the stripping of her daggers, her blaster, and her syringe, her hand found her lightsaber as the chain that held it to her hip also fell to the ground. "Amusing trick... but you're need more then that to best me. Did you come armed?"
He nodded. He reached a hand underneath his vest, pulling the lightsaber he kept concealed under the black leather garment. Dritz was taken aback when she saw it... it was long, longer then it had to be even for a dual emitter matrix. It was plain, without much decorative application, and it had an unusual bend, almost an s shaped curve at the center of the handle, offering little in the way of functionality as it would only serve to change the angles one would have normally known. At the end of each side of the saber was a small metal hook... it reflected what little light the room offered admirably, a stainless steel finish, looking lethal even as small as it was. He folded the saber to his hip rather then ignite it and hold it out, and simply waited.
The snap hiss of Dritz's saber broke the tense silence, and she charged at him, grunting with each heavy slam of leather boot against dusty rock. She swung, an overhand slash designed to sever him in half between the eyeballs, but he sidestepped, turning back to face her... and making no counter attack.
She stared at him, partly amused, partly annoyed. He was arrogant... was foolish, was showing off. She was annoyed because it seemed like he had been hiding something. He moved with a fluidity and grace, a sense of anticipation that told her he was more then just a crazy drifter making an unrealistic challenge. She met his eyes, hers blinking from the sweat, his a dead calm, resolute and unmoving, before he offered her a small nod.
She charged again. She stabbed, and thrust, but each time he backstepped, moving his torso from harms way, bending his form around her adjustments. He was good, moving to dodge before she had decided to move to strike, anticipating and reacting to her very thoughts. The amusement faded almost instantly, and she brought her saber up above her head, aiming a killing slash, hard and with all the power she could muster, aimed directly at his throat.
He ducked it before she even threw it. She stumbled forward by her momentum, and behind her, heard his lightsaber snap into ignition. She turned, and saw that he had activated only a single blue blade. "You have the power to kill, and the intensity to offer a challenge, but it is untempered and wild. Your fighting style has many holes."
She nodded, spitting on the ground. Then she charged again. This time, he raised his saber defensively, meeting her slash and adding counterpush to deflect it harmlessly aside. When she slashed, he parried. When she thrust, he parried. When she lunged, he parried. But he never attacked back, never took a swing, a stab, a thrust, a jab... never an offensive thought shown, just passive defensive fighting... it confused and frustrated her.
She took another swing at him, an upward swing, designed to parse him at the waist. He blocked it, but left his head open for her other hand. She swung, hard, an offhanded punch but a punch nonetheless. She assumed with his hands engaged the blow would land. She was wrong.
He moved his head independently of his body, but then allowed his body to follow suit. He ducked under the blow, and indeed, the entire arm, allowing his parry to lay limp as he stepped away from her press. She became unbalanced, but he was prepared to help her stay on her footing by seizing her other arm and gripping it tight. What happened next was not something she was expecting, as he swung his saber back around, rolling his wrist backwards, and cleaning slicing off her forearm.
Her screams of agony filled the room, howls and sobs, cries of unintelligible pain. She looked at what had once been a complete arm, at the burned and charred edge of her elbow, where once the arm had continued to a hand. All that remained, the smoking, molting flesh, bent and warped by the heat, cauterized, bloodless, but definitely not without large amounts of pain. Her eyes narrowed, hatred taking over her features. She looked down, her other hand, curling hard onto the metal handle of her lightsaber.
She charged, furious. He met her with the same calm efficiency he had offered before. Each wild swing, each fatally aimed arc of her lightsaber was deflected with patience and persistence. He made no further counters beyond the one which had claimed her arm, and this only served to enrage her further. His body dissapeared, replaced by a hot, red cloud, her anger losing cohesive focus, rage drawing in the blanks, giving her a center, a balance.
On one hard, overhand strike, the stranger met her blade with a perpendicular block, and pushed back with more then the force of his arms. She was sent flying, skidding across the seat of her leather skirt, coming to a stop several feet away. She paused, making no action, and he once again nodded his head at her, bowing slightly in a show of respect. "You are experiencing now what it is like to fight as a Sith. Now, I will complete the lesson, and allow you to die as one."
She did not take this as a compliment. A jerk of the hips and she was on her feet, once again charging at him, hatred being pushed through her veins, fury coursing and massaging her brain, vengeance at the end of her fingers. She aimed to drive that vengeance, the summation of her fury and her hatred, into his heart, into his chest, into his face. Each time met with the stoic minimalistic motions, answering only as was no needed, no counterforce, no unbalance. She stepped back, allowing him a free killing slash. He lowered his saber instead.
She gasped for breath. She was spent... the pain of her arm beginning to draw her back to reality, the dull throb of the missing limb seeping past the hatred. She wanted this to be over, needed him to be dead. She could not endure much more. "What do you want from me?"
"I ask only that you die with honor. Raise your weapon, and let us finish this," he said, nodding his head again.
She clapped the saber to her hip, and reached out, fingers spreading and launching sharp, jagged arcs of lightning into his chest. They broke across the leather, spreading across his entire torso, arching up and down his neck, pouring into his nostrils, covering him in sharp, white light.
But he did not fall. He did not shudder, and did not gasp. He merely... absorbed.
When she grew tired of launching the lightning, she stopped. The last few sparks poured into his body and still he showed no ill effects. Smoke poured from his body, but no blood, no broken flesh, no shortage of breath befell the mysterious warrior, no signs of damage, or even discomfort. "I don't... I don't understand."
He nodded. "Nor will you ever. Had you spent the time you did on self improvement rather then creating your garish leather outfits, then perhaps my power would be within your comprehension." He raised his saber, pointing it at her chest. "I would grant you the honor of death in defeat, but if you wish, I will execute you. I leave the choice to you."
She made her choice, a furious strike at his saber, deflecting it with a burst of strength and power. Her red blade clashed against his blue blade, her power against his willpower. The battle was drawing to it's climax, as she threw everything, every joule of kinetic energy she had left, drained every ounce of muscle fiber of any force it could muster, every thought in her head imagining him, torn limb from limb, eviscerated, decapitated.
Fantasy is such a lovely defense mechanism. Sometimes.
On this day, it offered little defense. Her overhand slash was sidestepped and then trapped low, keeping her saber at her knees. She tried to bring it back, but he finally gave her what she had wanted; resistance. She looked into his eyes, and he smiled.
His hands shifted effortlessly, smoothly spinning as if his joints had no limits. The ignition of his second blade broke the silence, and the accompanying gasp would bridge the gap between the tense moments before and after he had moved his arms. She continued to stare at him, her lips quivering. He nodded his head, and turned off his saber.
The silence hung in the air, only broken by the dull, wet thud of her head against the stone beneath.
The man at the center of the room felt the heat rising in his chest. The entire room stared at him, in shock. He paused for reasons they did not know. Only he knew that he was reconstructing the tissue in his chest, repairing the damage the lightning had done. To the outside, he was indestructible. He had killed their leader. He was the Dark Lord of the Sith.
Finally, at long last, he rose his head. He clipping his saber back beneath his vest was the first thing they heard, and then came a step, a press of leather heel against stone. It was followed by another and another still, as he began to appraise the room.
"Do you... do you know know where you are? She would ask me... you would ask me... if I know into what den, into what hovel, into what sad collection of man I have walked, and before, I thought I knew, but she was right. You were right. This is not where I thought that I was to be going. This is not the place in which I rememeber leading. You are not the men which I remember molding. This cannot be The Brotherhood Of The Sith!
"But I look around, and I see the signs of what once belonged. The fear, and the anger in your eyes. Familiar eyes. Familiar faces all. Familiar stones, boxes, and stains of blood. Inside these halls, I fought Avery, Lord of the Sith, for my very life, to prove that I belonged. Inside these halls, Bane Nothos cut off his own arm to prove that he was dedicated. Inside these halls, men fought, and bled, and died, for what they believed in.
"And look at you now. Look at you. The Sith Order. The finest the darkside has to offer. You... desecrate these holy halls. You don't train. You drink. You don't push yourself. You smoke. You don't prove your valor. You fuck around. These are not the backstreets of Corellia, or whorehouses on Ando. This is Yavin IV. This is the grand temple of Exar Kun himself. He had these walls built so that he could house an army. And now, it houses you.
"You... are an embarrassment. You are a disgrace. You do not belong! Not any of you! A part of me calls for me to evidence that now, to wipe you from history itself, to destroy you so completely that not even memories remain. To cause you the greatest pain a man has ever caused, and to rid myself of the horrible stain of the command of that halfbred bitch you call a leader.
"But a part of me knows that what you saw today has awoken something inside of you. It's reminded you of what it means to be a Sith. Not to party, and not to orgy. Not to waste time and energy on the frivelous pursuits you have enjoyed. But to expend that energy in battle. To use that power, that aggression, that pent up frustration, and turn it against your enemies. To deprive your senses until that final, glorious moment, and drink it in... drink in the taste of victory over the Jedi...
"For two long weeks I have watched you, and I have observed that you have wasted time, effort, and energy on things which further no one except yourself. For two long weeks I have formulated my opinions on each of you, and all of you. It is time for the Sith Order to rise to prominence again. It is time that we, as Sith, left the bars, and entered the battle. There is a war in that galaxy, right now. A war that you should be fighting. A war that you should be winning. From now on, you will fight, or you will fuck around. There will be no leniency. if you are not here to learn and to fight for the honor and victory of The Sith Brotherhood, then leave tonight and never return. If you remain, I will execute you as I beheaded this waste of flesh you see before you."
For effect, the man used a hand to push the carcass down to the floor, allowing it to land with a thud beside the disconnected head.
"When I walked in here, I was asked my name. I was insulted. You should all know my name. I am your leader. I am your mentor. I am your lord. I am Ahnk Rashanagok, the Dark Lord Of The Sith. And I rule this order!"
Half of the students took him at his word, ducking head and falling to a knee immediately. The other half had no intention of losing their head and followed suit.
"I am not the man that I used to be. I gave myself, gave my life, for this order. I died so that the Brotherhood could survive, and this is why my corpse is rotting? So that this Brotherhood can live? Unacceptable. I did not die so that you could waste your lives with woman and drink. This is not why I sacrificed everything that I had! This is not what I lived for and it is certainly not what I died for.
"I have said it before, and I will say it now, one more time and for the last time. Those of you who do not share my goal of the Sith Order regaining all it's former glory can leave. The rest of you, make preparations. Ready your weapons and dress for battle, because tonight, we dine on blood."
With that, Ahnk Rashanagok turned from the mass of people staring at him, and strode, without a word, from the temple. As he stepped outside, the students began to silently shift towards the corpse in the center of the room, knowing their lives were about to become something very, very different...
"I... I don't understand."
The pain began to slowly subside. He reached out with his hand, and jerked, hard. The bone snapped back to the way it was, and the pain began again, much more intense, coming in hard, sharp throbs, traveling up his spine, and overcoming his brain.
"When the time is right, you'll know."
He took the glass inside his cold, wet hands, slowly drawing it to his parched lips. His thirst told him to swallow it immediately, but the warmth of the glass told him it was better to sip the contents inside. It slid slowly down his throat, warming the surface of the flesh of his trachea, spreading beyond, into the chest, the lungs, the heart, and into the brain. The steam rising from the cup was like music to his nostrils, and he sucked it in, thankful and appreciative.
"You must have been very cold... hills not for new climbers. Must know what your enemy is, in order to defeat it."
The man with the cup chuckled. "That almost sounds like a Jedi expression."
The other man, the one with the teapot, smiled in return. "Qui-Gon Jinn."
"That explains why it's only vaguely familiar," the man said, and took another warm, deep sip. "Not really a fan of his work."
"That surprise me," the man said, offering the strange hiker a small bowl of soup. The bowl was accepted immediately. "You must be Jedi, to survive that cold, also your leg, look like nasty fall, nasty nasty fall."
"I'm not a Jedi. I'm just a crazy hiker with more balls then brains," the man said, and then pulled the soup bowl to his mouth, taking a deep sip of it. "Wow, this is quite good. I don't suppose you have any bread, do you?"
"Ah yes, of course, of course. One second, I find, I find," the man said, beginning a search of the hut that he called his home. The people who lived here, at the base of the mountains, were disconnected from the Galactic Coalition's efforts to assist the general living. They had not gotten supply packages, they had no elected consul to the government. Much of it was by choice... they chose not to change with the rest of the world, happy with their ways. The hiker respected that... and would never interfere. His pretense here a matter of hospitality on the owner of the hut, and hunger on the part of himself. The man returned with bread, and the hiker offered him a deep bow of respect, before he put the stale bread into the hot, warm soup. "Where you come from, stranger?"
"Andrew," the man said, offering his hand. The man in the hut shook it, and then shivered at how cold it was. "I'm from Naboo."
"Long way from Sinsang, long way," the man said, as he poured himself a cup of tea. "What bring you here, Mr. Andrew?"
"I wanted to see the old monestaries you have up in your hills. I was told they were remarkable and," he said, pausing to take another gulp of soup, "besides some weather damage they are in remarkable condition."
"They abandon now," the man said, but he reached out, finding a symbol dangling from a nearby chain. He pulled it down, handed it to the man with the soup bowl, who set the bowl down and took the pendant. "Used to have mass. Very quiet. Not come to town. Then dissapear, many hundred years ago. We steal wood and food, take trinket, they not come back, they not care, right?"
"Right..." the man said, not looking at him. He recognized the metal symbol... it was the Korriban Sun, the mark branded into the skin of a Sith Warrior when he ascended to the rank. The hiker found himself involuntarily rubbing his head, where his tattoo had been... lifetimes ago. It was unlikely the Sith themselves ever had a presence here, more likely the trainees were merely monks attempting to follow their teachings, unaware of what they would lead to, or where they had come from. The Book Of Dicek spoke at length of maintaining a deep connection with the force and channeling it into action, and many martial examples, but not so much focused on the why, or the what for. It was possible some on this planet may have even learned how to use the force as would a Sith... without ever knowing that they had.
"You look like you have seen ghost," the man said, and Andrew shook his head. "You know what symbol mean?"
Andrew nodded. He raised the pendant. "Do you mind if I keep this? As a souvenir... I collect ancient symbols, pendants, anything old and ritualistic."
"You take. I get more, no problem. You take," the man said. He reached to refill his cup, and Andrew waved his hand in advance, declining anymore tea. "You not stay? Have to go?"
"I'm sorry, I'd really love to stay and ask you some questions about those old monestaries, but I have to go. I'm meeting a friend in the city, and I haven't even booked us a table..."
The man perked up. "Capital city?"
Andrew nodded, taking a bite of his soup soaked bread. "Yeah... why, you know a good place?"
The man smiled. "Mr. Andrew, I am cook in the city. Big restaurant, very good food. You wait the night, I get you table."
Andrew grinned. He drained his tea cup, and the man smiled. They spent the entire night discussing Sinsang, and in the morning, Ahnk had his reservations.
By the time Ahnk walked into the restaurant, his leg had mostly healed. He walked with a limp... even a Jedi master could only heal a fully separated femur so quickly... but did his best to disguise it as he walked into the restaurant. It was as nice as he was told... solid red veneered wood paneling and inlay, with marble accents around the fireplace and support columns. It was the perfect setting for an awkward discussion.
Ahnk spotted Irtar, sitting quietly at his table. Bread and water had been delivered... it didn't look like Irtar had sampled either, his arms folded across his chest, waiting. Ahnk approached the table as stealthily as a man of his stature and an injury of his nature can while his lightsaber bounces off his belt.
Ahnk took a seat in front of Irtar, enduring his silent glare. He picked up a menu, reading from it casually. As he did, he reached out and grabbed one of the pieces of bread, slipping it into his mouth, devouring it rapidly. He was starved... the little snack aside, he'd spent 6 days in the hills in remote countryside Sinsang, exploring, spelunking, eating only the rations he had brought with him.
He realized he was being rude, and quickly swallowed the bread, lowering the menu. "Hello again, Mr. Mal'Gro. I hope that you found this place without much trouble. It was recommended by a local, actually... he says that the chicken here is excellent in every dish, so if you're at a loss for meal ideas, that is what he recommends."
Ahnk looked at him. He seemed... on edge. "Sorry, did I say something wrong? Do something wrong? I didn't mean to offend... I'm starving though... so, I dove right in... the bread is very good, by the way."
Irtar did not react. "Actually, if you're already in a bad mood already, I might as well make it worse. Why do you come here, Irtar? I know what I see in you... you have great potential to be a Jedi master... among the best, really. You are reckless and fearless in the best of ways. You have great instincts and great reflexes and I think you have a passion to do what needs to be done. But, me? I'm washed up. I lost it all, my empire is shit. I fell to pieces and I'm still on the floor. No one can put back together what I destroyed. So what do you get from our meetings together?"
Ahnk frowned. A waiter passed by, and Ahnk asked him for a glass of Cadinh Sasoma. "You don't have it? Uh... any Tionese wines? Okay, how is the local wine? Okay, bring a bottle... no, he's in a pretty bad mood it seems. Maybe bring three bottles."
Ahnk thanked the waiter before he took his leave. "Is something the matter, Irtar? It's been... how long, since we last saw each other, and you have nothing to say?"
Oct 12 2007 3:07pm
“Ah, your table is right this way Mister Mal’Gro.” The connoisseur said with a slight bow, before leading him towards a table. Irtar returned the bow, and began to follow the man. The restaurant Ahnk had chosen seemed… an interesting choice for him. He expected something like this from Vorlorn Holm but Ahnk never struck as a particular for the local culture and custom.
The place was made to seem like some of the Sinsangese buildings of old, but one could make out the variety of modern technologies that ruined the illusion. Maybe to most it all seemed to be such a vibrant place of the old, but the trained engineer-turned-Jedi could easily make out all the new trinkets and gadgets of the modern age. Nothing major, but it was there.
Holo-scenery, modern cleaner droids, panel lighting with fixtures put over it to make it appear like candles. The disadvantage of having devoted his early life to the mechanical was his ability to pick apart things meant to look simple as the illusions they were.
Irtar grimaced at the thought of illusions, and his previous adventure with Ahnk Rashanagok. The battle he was dragged into still sat on his mind. At least he had survived.
Irtar’s wandering thoughts were brought back to the fore by the waiting look from the connoisseur as it finally sunk in that they had arrived. “Oh, heh. Sorry. My mind is just elsewhere. Thank-you.” Irtar fumbled out, making a quick and awkward bow before taking his seat.
And so Irtar sat, and time passed. He had come a bit early, but as he looked at the time he noticed Ahnk was fifteen minutes late. Irtar groaned as he gently pushed at the glass of water on the table. His mind slowly wandered elsewhere, as he wondered about what had come and what had passed.
Once more, Ahnk had left him to return to him later. And now here he was, but his mind always returned to the why. Why had he given up his job in the government, where he had the chance to do the most good, in order to resume the path of the Jedi? Irtar thought he had quelled this thoughts but he couldn’t help but feel some remorse for his decisions. He had seen how ineffective the Jedi Masters have been so far, how would he be any different?
Dolash had the Azguardians. Leia had her many contacts from her numerous years and adventures. Vodo had age and wisdom.
Irtar didn’t think that even if he had the stuff to be a Master, he’d be able to offer anything that could tip the balance. The Jedi were now scattered to the wind, the Sith had their power base unified, and any who would seek to stand against them had been the martyrs of the New Republic. Things were worse for the Light than they had been in the days of Palpatine.
And yet, Irtar felt something nudging him forward. A nagging voice in the back of his head telling him that maybe, just MAYBE, there was some shred of hope left out there. Was it the Force? Or was it simply his own ego?
Irtar tapped at the table, counting the seconds and the minutes as time passed. He didn’t want to order until Ahnk was there. It was considered ill practice, at least on Dantooine, to start eating without everyone else. Oh, that dear can of worms that was home.
Irtar grumbled as he remembered the busted up defence drone he had sent to help keep the estate safe was returned to him. And the lovely note Indarin included had incredibly helped Irtar’s mood. At least he was trying to do some good, rather than hold a grudge over something he hadn’t done.
And it was at about this point, a familiar figure with a bald head made a swift move for the chair before him. He sat almost non-chalantly and just grabbed a chunk of bread, stuffing it into his mouth and fetching up the menu.
"Hello again, Mr. Mal'Gro. I hope that you found this place without much trouble. It was recommended by a local, actually... he says that the chicken here is excellent in every dish, so if you're at a loss for meal ideas, that is what he recommends."
Irtar shifted slightly, looking at Ahnk to try and figure out what he’s doing here. Talking to the locals? What was he up to? First he was late and then this? Questions. Always more questions.
"Sorry, did I say something wrong? Do something wrong? I didn't mean to offend... I'm starving though... so, I dove right in... the bread is very good, by the way."
Irtar did not react, just staring at Ahnk. Questions racing through his mind concerning why he had left them again, and what he had been doing. But to this point, Irtar kept quiet. Ahnk continued, only giving slight pauses before continuing. "Actually, if you're already in a bad mood already, I might as well make it worse. Why do you come here, Irtar? I know what I see in you... you have great potential to be a Jedi master... among the best, really. You are reckless and fearless in the best of ways. You have great instincts and great reflexes and I think you have a passion to do what needs to be done. But, me? I'm washed up. I lost it all, my empire is shit. I fell to pieces and I'm still on the floor. No one can put back together what I destroyed. So what do you get from our meetings together?"
Ahnk frowned and Irtar gave a slightly quizzical look in response. A waiter passed by, and Ahnk asked him for a glass of some sort of alcohol. Irtar didn’t know too much about wines. "You don't have it? Uh... any Tionese wines? Okay, how is the local wine? Okay, bring a bottle... no, he's in a pretty bad mood it seems. Maybe bring three bottles."
Irtar’s quizzical expression deepened. Ahnk was without a doubt the most unpredictable men he had ever met in his time in the stars. And as an Ambassador, that’s saying something. "Is something the matter, Irtar? It's been... how long, since we last saw each other, and you have nothing to say?"
Irtar slowly reached out and took a sip from his glass of water, deliberately pausing on his part. “The last time we met, you left us after duelling a drug wielding Sith Lord with pretty much as much as the first time we met. At least this time you didn’t beat up a guard and had the sense to make an appointment.”
“Now, I have a thousand questions to ask you right now. Like: What have you been doing? Or: Do you plan to drag me across the galaxy again? But I’d prefer to start off with: What do you mean the bad news of having potential?” Irtar asked, with a hint of snide to his voice. “Or are you refering to your not giving a damn?”
Irtar just stopped himself and shook his head, realizing exactly how rude he's being. Just because Ahnk was rude to him was no reason to return it in kind. “I... I'm sorry for being rude. My brother is still blaming me for our Mom's death, I left my job as an ambassador to follow the Jedi-ly pursuits, and then I ended up having to sit here and wait for you and the first thing you do is just start eating.”
“I've just had a bad day...” Irtar grumbled as he scratched his head.
“SO. Come here to try and teach me this time, or are we chasing after Sith Lords again?”
Nov 29 2007 6:34am
"I've just had a bad day..."
Ahnk allowed one of his eyebrows to raise... and then, openly, and derisively, laughed out loud.
"You... have... had a bad day."
Ahnk stared at the younger Jedi, almost incredulously. He was having a bad day? Is this the same person Ahnk had seen, on Ossus? The one with fire, and hatred, and a will to make things happen? It couldn't be.
"Let me tell you about bad days, Irtar Mal'Gro. Bad days begin when I wake up one day with this headache that I can't make go away. I know what it is, it's the memory I have, of dying, of being killed for being a leader in the Sith Order. And I feel it, always, in the shoulder, in the chest, through my back, the dull throb of my dead flesh. So I wake up with this headache, and I decide maybe I should devote myself to a life of good. So I do. But the headache doesn't go away, Irtar, it just gets worse. It gets worse Because I'm trying to be a nice guy, and no one follows me. I walk out alone and everyone else heads in the other way. So here I am trying to do a nice thing, and this pissed off Jedi master takes it upon himself to cut me in half. So now remember that pain I mentioned before? Now I've got that dull throb in my chest and abdomen too. So at this point it's hard to think without thinking about how much agony I'm in, and it never goes away Irtar, not this kind of pain. It's always there. And I always remember. But I'm not done being a good sameratin, oh no. I haven't had enough pain yet. But this time, I want to be sure. So I sit down, and read. I watch the news. I wait. And when I can't wait any longer, I decide to take a walk. I decide to do some good. And what happens?"
Ahnk reached down to the edge of his sleeve. He slowly pulled up the robe, revealing the metallic skeletal structure that now replaced his arm. The black wires and cable that wrapped around the cold, silver steel pulsing and bending as Ahnk relaxed and tensed his fingers.
"I had my arm cut off... by a Jedi, no less. So, this dull throb I feel, of death, and intense pain? Now it's everywhere. And every time I wake up, every time I take a shower, every time I take a piss, I live with this metal construct where used to exist a human arm. I have nothing left that originally belonged to Andrew Micheal Rashanagok. I have lost and rebuilt myself so many times I don't even really know what it is to be a human being anymore. I couldn't sit down and count the number of lives I have destroyed if I tried. If I wanted to confess to my crimes I could begin now and I would die before it was over. And I know that in the furtherance of what I need to do others will be cast aside. And I'll continue to lose more and more of myself. Inside, outside, everything I have left. The very fundaments of my existence, and mental stability. It's already waning as we speak. But you know what, Irtar? I'm not going to stop. I'm going into this with full knowledge that it will, in the end, destroy me. Same as I did before. And looking back, at all the loss, at all the pain, and everything I've done, if I had to do it all over again, just the way I did... I would."
Ahnk turned his head slightly, and noticed that a couple at the other table was staring at his exposed metallic limb. He rolled his sleeve back down to cover the entirety of the replacement arm.
"We all have bad days, Irtar. Some of us have bad years. Some of us, bad lives. But everything that happens to us has happened before, and will happen again, and everything happens because it must happen. Because you are cut so that you may know pain, and you are burnt so that you may know fear. You are pushed to the point of breaking so that you may know who and what you are. You suffer, to become better. This is how human beings grow, through self discovery in pain. It is the only way we can truly learn. And, in the end, when faced with the monstrosity of a negative existence, when we are forced to sit and construct inside our heads who we have become, and all of the horrible things that we have done and seen and felt to get there, there is only two things we can do. We can turn away. Or we can be what we were born to be."
Ahnk looked down at the table. Bypassing the fresh glass of wine, he picked up one of the bread sticks.
"This is bread. It wasn't always bread but it was always bread. Even when it was a seed, even when it was wheat, when it was crushed down into the fibers and grain, rolled into flower, mixed into dough. It was always bread. There was never a possibility that those seeds could become a bird's meal. That that wheat could become a pie, or a pizza. It was always bread. From the moment of the seeds introduction to life to the moment that that life was culled so that we may eat of it, it was bread, and never anything else. Deep down, inside of you, you know of what I speak. Of the truth within the fabric of knowledge within you, of the very reason for why you were born, why you live, and why you fight. You are a warrior, and nothing else. Not a poet, and not a politician. Not bread. You were born and continue to live because in pain you can know peace. In making the galaxy a better place will you truly find your place. You live a little more each day, the more you come to accept this. And though you and I both know the answer, because we have had this conversation before, you need to answer it again."
Ahnk calmly laid back down the bread stick, placing it on his plate, then looking Irtar directly in his eyes.
"Am I wrong about you, Irtar Mal'Gro? Did I misjudge you, and your will to fight for what is right? Did I get you confused with someone else? Or do you want to do this? Do you want to know more bad days? And learn through even more pain and loss? Because if you're not ready for this, and you're having second thoughts, you need to let me know, now. Because after today... after we finish this meal... there is no going back. There are doors that, once opened, can never be closed. So... are you a warrior? Or were you just having a bad day?"
Dec 6 2007 3:10am
“Knowing you, you don’t want my sympathy.” Irtar noted in an off-handed way as he took up the glass of water sitting next to him. “But y’know, I was just trying to explain why I wasn’t the prime of freaking civility. Never said I was having doubts.”
Irtar took a quick sip of the drink, before returning it to the table, looking Ahnk straight in the eye. It wasn’t a look of confrontation or challenge, but just a look to truly make sure that Ahnk was paying attention to not just the words but the feeling.
“The Sith kill innocent people for no reason. Sometimes just because they’re there. Sometimes because they think they’re in the way. Heck, sometimes just to try to get to the people trying to do some good in the world. The Sith killed my mother just because she was my mother. That was her sin that made her die.”
“And how many more must suffer? If the Jedi end up trying to go to ground, are their families going to massacred one by one? Are the Jedi going to get the blame like I did? The Empire creating one last slander campaign to finish us off on the blood of the innocent?” Irtar grumbled, his already sour face seeming to sour more from the ideas being presented in the open. His fists trembling slightly from the emotions stirring inside.
But he didn’t notice this. He didn’t notice the people in the restaurant begin to look at him with inquisitive gazes as his voice began to rise. Irtar had this weight on his back he’d been carrying all day, and if Ahnk felt like unloading some of his baggage then he’d return the favour in kind.
“But do you want to know what REALLY pisses me off? What’s really put me in my foul mood? The fact that my older brother is so angry at me for what that bitch did that he blames me for the whole fucking thing! That every attempt to reconcile he just throws away and give me another big ‘fuck you’. The idea that their plan might work even on my own fucking family! On people who grew up with me and KNOW me!” Without even thinking Irtar had stood up a bit from his chair and pressed that gaze deeper into Ahnk.
“This is what drives me forward. Yeah, it’s been a bad day. Yeah, it makes me uncivil and I was trying to apologize for it. But I was raised better than to let it keep me down. My father always told me to try and do the best I could with what I was given. And I have this chance, no matter how small, to try to set things right. To gain the forgiveness of my family. Frell, maybe even gain some measure of forgiveness from the galaxy for the Jedi not being there for them for the last while.”
The weight, for a time at least, was gone. Suddenly, Irtar noticed the number of eyes gazing at him from the restaurant. Slowly, Irtar’s face reddened and he sat back down and began to fiddle nervously with his napkin. Looking at the table, as his confidence was once more whisked away and the quite kid from before returned. He was silent for a moment, waiting for the attention of everyone to return to their previous conversations.
“I don’t know what I am…” Irtar muttered under his breath. “But I have to try and do something about the evils in the world. If this path destroys me well… well then at least I tried.”
Ahnk looked as if he was about to say something in reply when a server walked forward and interrupted the duo. “So, what will the two of you be having this evening? Will you be ordering from the menu or do you wish to use the dinner buffet for the evening? This evening’s specials are the orange chicken, which comes with a side of steamed rice and vegetables along with the drink of your choice.”
Mar 4 2008 5:19am
"The special is fine, thanks," Ahnk said, his interest in food having disappeared.
Irtar looked intensely at Ahnk, and Ahnk returned that stare. Ahnk had long since lost count of his age but he was measurably the elder of the two, and looked at Irtar as one assesses one who is about to ascend to something more significant. Irtar was on the ladder; Ahnk was guaging his intent to climb.
"Now we're getting to the crux of it, then. To the real reason you are here. You hate being judged. Being blamed. Being lambasted with accusatory glares, with the whispers in the dark, and the gently pointed fingers. You don't like being a murderer. You don't like the way they look at you. How they turn when you're around. You don't like being held as a monster. You want to be a hero."
Ahnk leaned forward in his chair, just enough, that he could drop his voice low enough that no one but Irtar would hear him.
"Fuck you, Irtar Mal'Gro."
Ahnk then leaned back, and went back to talking in his regular tone.
"You're here because you're a coward. Because someone called you a name, and you couldn't handle it. That's what it seems like to me. You talk about smear campaigns and blame. You're just a coward. You turn tail and run from accusations. You sulk about it. Man up, Irtar. Because this isn't going to be something you can do without hurting a few feelings."
Ahnk stopped talking as the waiter delivered his wine. He looked at Irtar and Irtar looked at him. Neither spoke. Both knew Ahnk wasn't finished; it wasn't his style to be efficient and to the point. He had more rambling to do. So both waited until both had a full glass of wine, and had privacy again.
"Let me break down what is and isn't going to happen, Irtar. Maybe somewhere in my speeches, you misunderstood. We aren't saving the galaxy. We can't. It's too late, I'm too tired, you're not capable. It's too much work. This isn't about saving lives. About justice, or peace. This is about revenge. This is because they've been killing us for centuries and nobody had the fury to kill back. People are going to die, Irtar. We're going to make widows. We're going to make orphans. We're going to paint entire cities with our enemies blood. We're going to do bad things to bad people. This doesn't make us just, or right."
Ahnk stopped, and raised his glass of wine.
"...but does it make us heroes?"
Ahnk took a sniff of the wine. Ah. An excellent vintage.
"Who can define a hero? Is a hero someone who does something to benefit the lives of others? Is a hero someone who acts in the interests of the general human conscience? Who obeys a morality that overrides the law of man? Who fights the fight no one else can fight? Who stands up where others have fallen to their deaths? Who does what he can, because it's all that he can do? Who is to say what a hero is? Is the modern face of heroism what the Coalition passes off? Or the New Rebellion, the New Rebel Alliance, the New Republican Alliance of Rebellion, or whatever else group of philanthropic bureaucrats has risen up to save the galaxy represents? Who is a modern hero? How long has it been since we saw someone absolutely and flawlessly heroic? Can anyone say? Do we even remember what it means to be a hero?"
Ahnk set down his glass of wine, thought about it, and then raised it back up.
"If you're in this to be lauded, applauded, or turned into a hero, forget it. They don't pin medals to the chests of men who do what we will need to do. The Coalition is not going to sanction us. The Rebellion will not condone us. The Commonwealth will not support us. The New Order will probably have us shot. We may well get, from someone, a state funeral. But will we die as heroes? Maybe. Only history can determine that. If we kill all the Sith before we die, then we probably will. It might not be a reasonable goal. Reasonable or not, I think it's worth a shot. I don't care if it makes me a hero. And I know I won't live to see the day where I am lauded for my efforts. I just want to do it because I think it's about fucking time that someone made them answer for what they've done. And because I think in the process of killing as many Sith as I can, maybe if not for the galaxy, maybe just for me, I can find peace. I'm not doing this for heroic reasons. I am entirely selfish in my wish to kill all the Sith."
Ahnk took another deep drink of his wine, his nostrils sucking it in, and then sighed contentedly, ready to finally taste it on his tongue.
"I can... live, with that. The consequences of what I want to do, and the reasons for my actions. I can live with being a hero, or dying a villain. I can live with it. And I can drink to it."
Ahnk raised his glass in a salute.
"To killing as many Sith as possible. For whatever the reason. As many as we can. For as long as we have. To the calm, and peace, of death."
Ahnk took a deep sip of wine. The warm red liquid slid from the edge of the glass past the edge of his lips, filling his mouth with the familiar taste of demons and darkness. In the darkness, there was strength. And in the alcohol came a soothing sense of relief. It didn't matter now, that he was looking at an impossible task, one for which he would be killed, probably in a painful fashion. As long as he had wine, everything would be okay.
When his mouth was empty, he allowed his eyes to open again. Meeting Irtar's with a soft smile.
"If you can live with it, and drink to it, then your training can begin."
Jun 27 2008 4:21am
Irtar looked down a bit, thinking on all that Ahnk had said. Digesting and absorbing it like the meal he was about to have. Nothing passed between the pair for a couple of moments while Irtar thought through the words, and how best to place word to thought.
He took a sip from his glass of wine, grimacing a bit and putting it back to the table. Stuff tasted bad and didn’t have any kick to it. More time passed, and the meal arrived and Irtar quietly ate the meal, his face bearing the long time of his thought of Ahnk’s words. Of not being a hero. Of being a coward. Of taking an impossible mantle. Of hate and vengeance. Of his circumstances that brought him to this place.
The chicken was pretty good. The soy sauce made the rice more enjoyable. The vegetables were fresh. All in all, it was an appetizing meal. Irtar didn’t even notice it in the least.
When there was nothing left on the plate, and the chopsticks were touched the table, Irtar cleared his throat and looked Ahnk in the eye.
“Chicken was good. My thanks to your source.” Irtar said with a nod, and an attempt at a smile. “And I know that I may not seem like the best apprentice. Going from master to master, and never seeming to have any straight path in life. But one thing I need to set straight…”
“I am not you.” Irtar said bluntly, deciding to just sum up his entire thought process. “I am not Leia, nor Vodo, nor Chao, nor my father. I have none of your motivations, experiences, or skills. You all do what you do for various reasons. Some for better, some for worse.”
“I didn’t come to you to fight for you. Nor did you come to me for me to fight for you. I had my own reasons and motivations apart from your own that brought us here. I left the Order because I found them to be complacent. They weren’t doing anything while the Sith were going around hitting us. I came because the Sith kill innocent people and don’t pay any price for it. I came because they lead the Empire in darkness. I came because they make and spread the misery that has plunged this galaxy into war for almost fifty years with no sign of ending.”
“I came to you to learn to fight. I came to you since you promised to teach me to fight the Sith and because you seek to fight the Sith. I seek to fight WITH you to help stop them. To destroy them.” Irtar said with a slight nod to Ahnk. “And I thank you for the chance that the Jedi Order didn’t really give me.”
“But don’t think I am going to become you. To attempt to replace my reasons with your own, because they’ll always be there.” Irtar said firmly, sitting back in his seat, not removing his eyes from Ahnk. “Because it’s that which makes us what we are. To remember it is what keeps us from that darkness even when we stare into the abyss. And why I can have any conviction in this fight, and agree to come with you.”
“I don’t know where my path will take me. But I will do things my way because I am me. For my own purposes be it revenge, or heroics, or whatever you want to call it.” Irtar said, with the same conviction as when Vodo confronted him. “And my only question to you, Ahnk Rashanagok, is do you want just another follower out for blood? Someone no better than what we fight?”
“Or do you want Irtar Mal’Gro, with reason to stay the path and who isn’t in this just for killing?”
There is a saying that ‘the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step’. The problem with this saying is simple. It’s easy to begin a lot of things. It’s never the first step which is the problem, but the thousands of steps after that. The steps that become more fierce and terrible than the next. Each one seeming to be that much worse than the one before it.
At least that’s what Irtar thought as he lay upon an outcropping in the Great Central Range of Sinsang, with nothing more than he had at that fateful diner. At least he was happy that his government job allowed him damn good quality suits that at least breathed, and his feet weren’t bleeding yet. They weren’t happy at him, but most dress shoes treated people worse when climbing mountains. And it was at least better than going barefoot and letting some shale at his unexposed flesh.
Irtar brought in another hot breath as his lungs struggled to take the influx of the thinner air. Ahnk just kept moving, without a break, and Irtar would be forced to catch up the distance. Irtar was at least happy he’d been getting himself back into shape or he’d likely already be dead.
“Okay Mal’Gro, not too much further. We’re almost to the crest of the mountain.” Irtar muttered as he pushed himself back up, his body feeling slightly limp at first before the blood began churning again. He clung against the mountain face and hauled himself along the sheer edge. It wasn’t a straight drop, but it was damn close. Irtar grumbled as he pulled and pushed himself further, his muscles complaining the whole way, but in some time, he finally caught up with Ahnk at the peak of the mountain.
The sight was something that would’ve taken his breath away if not for the climb already claiming it. Behind him, the great city of Bei-Diang that took up most of the south-east of this continent. It spread out, a dark scar upon the landscape. They now stood taller than many of the outlying buildings but some of the central corporate structures still stood, defiantly overreaching them towards the heavens. And to the west….
“More mountains….” Irtar groaned as he looked out over the peaks of grey, green, and white that lay before them. Ahnk didn’t cast him anymore than a bit of a gaze.
“We’ll set camp in the valley bellow for the night.” Ahnk said, the first words in hours, and began simply walking down the mountainside. At least the western slop was far more shallow than the east.
Irtar let out a small sigh, and began to follow Ahnk down the mountain. And so they continued like this, up and down through the mountains. Ahnk silent, yet unrelentingly driving Irtar forward. Always another peak. Always another day. Foraging what he could along the way to sustain himself, each day Irtar grew weaker and each day got harder. Irtar only knew so much about how to use the Force to accent his abilities and even that was getting stretched.
The air was thinned the higher they got, and the air was thick and foggy in the valleys. There was no sign of anyone. No villages, no roads, no temples, no nothing. Nothing but moving forward. Nothing but Ahnk’s encouraging.
If Irtar hadn’t been working himself again, his body wouldn’t have nearly been able to survive this ordeal. His hands were blistered, as were his feet, but there was at least still strength. His mind was weathered, but there was still will. And before him was Ahnk who seemed unphased.
Something would eventually need to give.
Another cliff face, his body feeling like it was burning and his mind wearied and fatigued, Irtar went to reach out with the Force to pull himself further along. Instead, all he grasped was a narrowing vision. With a gasp, Irtar suddenly saw his concept with reality slip, and he felt a sensation he hadn’t since his last training session with Leia.
All that Ahnk would’ve heard was a muffled scream, as Irtar’s body slipped from the mountain side and his mind slipped from reality.
creeping like a spider in the darkest parts of your mind…
“Huh? Who’s there!?!” Irtar shouted. He was surrounded by darkness, not knowing where to turn or where to look. He felt around to try and feel something.
memories of the past….
“What are you talking about?” Irtar shouted once more into the emptiness of the shadow. His voice eaten by whatever was out there. Whatever was all around him pulsed.
memories of fear. of suffering…
Suddenly, the darkness shifted. It was subtle, but Irtar felt the coldness in the air. Things became more… material. It was all hard to describe and even feel, yet somehow it was there.
memories of DEATH
And it was then that from the darkness, bodies appeared. Countless bodies. Some had blast wounds, others had wide open sores, and so many more painful means to death from the massacres that wracked the surface of Dantooine in the last century. Screams and suffering and tears from the terror of the face tore into his soul worse than any lightsaber could rend flesh.
The fear that swallowed his heart was paralyzing. Irtar couldn’t even breathe, the stench of decay squelching the want. His eyes refused to see. His ears refused to hear. Desperately he sought to hide from the carnage that appeared from the shadow, and it was in the shadow of his eyelids he found himself once again wondering. It was disorienting to close your eyes and find light.
“fear. fear leads to anger”
Irtar’s eyes adjusted, and he found himself on a busy street. The faces of the people couldn’t be focused on, and the sky was a dull grey but there wasn’t even a cloud in the sky. Lost, and not knowing where he was, Irtar moved forward, the vision of before lost in the crowd.
“Huh?” Irtar muttered as he searched around, trying to find where it came from. This time, the voice clearly came from somewhere. A physical place. Irtar walked in the direction he thought it was in, trying to push his way past the dull grey hordes. Then something caught his eye, a flash of colour ahead, going off into one of the alleys.
Pushing and shoving, Irtar forced the faceless mass aside. There were no complaints or shouts. It was just a minor inconvenience as they simply returned to their routine. Up the stream, he pushed. Through force and effort, he eventually came to the alley.
It was dark.
Yet Irtar couldn’t resist his curiosity which led him to chase the only thing beyond the dull and routine he had seen. Puddles of a some dark liquid pooled along the ground, greeting each step with a disgusting squishing noise.
The alley twisted and turned, and slowly the grey turned darker and darker. Irtar felt for his lightsaber when the darkness crept too far, but it was replied with the ignition of a light. For a moment Irtar was blinded, as his eyes adjusted and from it his picked up a lithe frame tipped with pink.
“Aretsuya…” Irtar muttered. The woman that had lead the Sith to him on Budpock.
anger leads to hate
“Hate. Lust. Fear. The dark emotions of man.” The blonde haired Sith that ambushed him, and suddenly the scene became so familiar. The alley of Budpock where one of the many fights that had pursued him in the past couple of years had taken place.
“Why have you brought me here?” Irtar asked that anonymous shadow that loomed ever out of sight. And he felt a shudder as another being stepped forward. A man in a dark robe. The assassin sent from the Sith that attacked him on Sinsang.
“Would you prefer another place where you have suffered? Perhaps a place where you have shed blood you would prefer?” The figure responded, and suddenly in a shimmer the place shifted and he was standing in the spaceport at Sinsang, flames licking around him as a group of dead mercenaries lay around.
“Why do you haunt me? What do you want!?!” Irtar demanded, no longer looking at the puppets but demanding answers from the puppeteer.
“Temper temper. What would your mother think of that?” Came the red haired Dehoir as he stepped into the scene, getting an accusing glower from Irtar. “And why do you think this is anyone but yourself? Guilt loves to play itself out when you suppress feelings so long.”
“Like lust.” Spoke Aretsuya.
“Like shame.” Spoke the blonde from Budpock.
“Like fear.” Spoke the dark robed assassin.
“Like hate.” Spoke Dehoir.
“Why can’t you leave me in peace!?!” Irtar roared as his lightsaber sprang to life, and he charged Dehoir with murder in his eyes.
hate leads to suffering
And with that, there was nothing. Once more standing in the darkness there was a dark laughter all around him. Irtar looked around, once again lost, and frustrated. And then the veil of fantasy and illusion gave way to the sharpness of reality.
The pain was what cut through first. It wasn’t anything so acute as it should’ve been, just a light throbbing in his head. With a groan, Irtar’s eyes opened to be greeted with the blinding light of day. Irtar went to turn his head to find somewhere easier to adjust but a sharp pain cut through him like a dagger, causing him to pause.
And then from somewhere, Irtar heard someone speaking. It sounded distant. Miles and miles away, but he knew the speaker had to be near him.
“Huh?” Irtar mumbled out, as his eyes tried to lock on to something, anything, to find the source of the sound.
Whoever was talking, it came closer but Irtar couldn’t decipher what they were discussing. It was in some sort of tongue he couldn’t understand. With a great deal of effort, Irtar’s eyes settled on a man in simple clothes akin to what he saw on the Jedi.
The man spoke, and Irtar just looked at him in confusion. It wasn’t Basic, but it sounded somewhat like Sinsangese. Irtar had learned some on his time as ambassador, but he knew the planet had several different dialects and this one was new to him.
“Do you know City speak?” Was all that Irtar could manage, speaking the language he had been taught was the official tongue of Sinsangese used in the government. The man before him paused, said something, bowed, then ran off. Irtar just watched, and raised a brow. He tried to lift his head but once again, pain.
Where was he? What had happened? Then suddenly, Irtar’s mind went to Ahnk. Where was he? Had he gone on without him? Or was this the temple? Irtar’s mind was full of so many questions. Irtar looked around the room, and found himself in a strange abode. He recognized it somewhat.
It was like those places that tourists looking for culture went to, except not nearly as glitzy and fake feeling. The bed was look to the ground, and two of the walls were made of that paper that they used for some of their walls. The rest was wood, with simple colours.
“Where am I?” Irtar pondered aloud, to be replied with a new voice. Low and with a pitch like gravel, the large figure entered the room.
“You will have to forgive Doctor Mishuri, not many in this village speak the tongues of the outside and simply that of our village.” The man was older, and dressed more lavishly. He wore a jacket of blue, adorned with a symbol that looked like sun with multiple points on it. His hair was tied so that part of it came above before returning below. It was black, with the odd streak of grey to it. At his side, he bore two swords, and he stood strong. “Forgive me, but I am known as Hirotomo and leader of this village.”
He followed this with a slight bow. Irtar, laying on his back was lost without being able to reciprocate. He gave a weak wave with his one hand, and a vane attempt at a smile. “Uhm… hi. I’m Irtar Mal’Gro.”
“An honour to meet you, Mal’Gro-san. I have already been informed by Rashanagok-san your situation, and he shall be waiting for you at the mountain when you are able to walk.” With that, Hirotomo turned towards the door.
“Hey! Wait!” Irtar called out, causing Hirotomo to give him a slight gaze, that bore into him. The man obviously didn’t like someone just yelling at him. “Uh, what’s your relationship with Ahnk? Where am I?”
“Rest. Save your questions for later.” Hirotomo said simply, turning and leaving the room, causing the doctor to give a prompt and deep bow to the leader figure. Irtar watched this curiously before letting his weight just sink into the pillow.
And the days passed. Hirotomo would check in twice a day, once shortly after breakfast and the other shortly after diner. Irtar learned that he apparently blacked out, and fell off the cliff-face. Luckily for him, there was a ledge a short way down and he didn’t fall very far and the village was just on the other side of the mountain. He suffered a fracture in his one leg, and a concussion. He had been out for several days before waking up.
It was all somewhat irregular for Irtar. The modern galaxy wasn’t so much about examinations and bandages for something this serious. Generally, bacta was the solution to most of the wounds like this. Most normal people would be kept in bed for weeks with a set of injuries like this. Irtar was making a speedy recovery, and he’d thank that to the Force and the healing meditation he had learned back on Naboo. It wasn’t anything like a good bacta bath but any mention of the outside whenever Hirotomo was around caused a visible souring of his mood.
Irtar had heard of them before, but only whispers. Nothing concrete or solid. The Anx elder, Vorlorn, had commented on them once in passing. From what he gathered they were a fringe group that shunned technology. He didn’t know much of the history, and he decided it was best not to discuss such with Hirotomo. He didn’t feel anything overly pleasant about his countenance when he was in a good mood, and angering him likely wouldn’t improve the situation.
Within a week, Irtar was on his feet. Not without the help of a crutch and a splint, but he was up and about. Not nearly enough to climb up the mountain, but to at least see the village. Get some fresh air and exercise.
His grey suit wasn’t in the condition anymore to be wearable. The jacket was worn and starting to split in a couple of places, a few gashes where rocks and twigs got snared on the fabric. The pants now had a large gash in the right leg that would be assumed where he landed on it, blackened by the dried blood. Hirotomo arranged for some clothes that were, strangely enough, not all unfamiliar.
The attire wasn’t all so different from his old Jedi clothes. It was even the same colours. The pants were a lot more wide and baggy, and there was no robe to go with the whole set of clothes to make it complete. A small smile came to his face in memory of the simple days on Naboo.
Irtar took his belt and put it overtop of the sash that wrapped around his waist. His lightsaber hung a bit too heavily on the sash and last he needed was for that thing to fall off. With a nod, his belt tight enough to stay in place, he grabbed the crutch and made his way outside for the first time in a while.
It was strange. The majority of the village had similar style, with painted wood, plaster, and terracotta roofs. But a couple of households varied. Along the mountain, he spotted some houses made of simple straight wood, and wooden shingles, with long flag poles and banners.
None of the people seemed to understand Basic beyond Hirotomo, and Hirotomo never discussed much more than Irtar’s health, the weather, and other simple things. He was getting no answers to his questions, only small talk. Irtar attempted to talk to others, even speaking the little Sinsangese he knew but most just ignored him.
After a couple of days, Irtar’s leg was beginning to become usable again. He chose to explore some of the country side around the village. A small river ran along the one side of the village, and farms were along the bank. It wasn’t quite like Irtar’s familiar farming on Dantooine. They weren’t ploughing fields, but were in fact carefully putting in plants into shallow pools along the river.
Another thing was both different and eerily similar were the nights.
In the city, the day would never die. Lights of various types and shades kept the entire city glowing as bright as if the sun was still shinning. Even on Dantooine, the home had various lights and flood lights to keep the fields alight and the predators leery. It wasn’t so fierce as the city, but it was still all encompassing and readily available. But this village used candles and torches. Night was so much… darker without electric lighting.
For all his time on Sinsang, it was in this place that Irtar truly felt he was something truly foreign, with nothing to cling to. But here he was a strange man, in a stranger place with nothing really familiar to it except a distant connection. It was both unsettling and refreshing.
Giving up with learning, Irtar sighed and found somewhere to sit. He found a place under a nice tree, leaning the crutch up against it. Leaning back and sighing, Irtar just gave a quick look at the world around him.
Looking around him, he couldn’t tell that this was the same world he’d be on for these past months. The mountains must’ve buffered the smog. The sounds of the village weren’t that of unending industry, but of people tending simple lives. Not a machine in sight or sound. The entire feeling of this place was so much different.
Irtar’s eyes turned up from the village, to a place in the distance. The place that Ahnk had driven him to arrive at. The mysterious temple that he knew nothing about. A temple to what? Or whom?
Why had Ahnk brought him to this place? Irtar pondered this as he looked up into the mountains, wondering what could be awaiting him in his future. Was this all part of the training or was it one last respite before the coming storm?
Irtar decided it was best to settle his mind, getting himself comfortable, and then closing his eyes to slowly try to close himself to the world. To focus his mind, and to attempt to continue his personal exercises. And namely because he still felt troubled from that nightmare which hung on the corners of his memory. Or was it a vision?
The figures, the words, the places. It was hard enough to remember it, as it passed like most dreams did. He couldn’t interpret the meaning of an incomplete sentence. You could assume what things would mean, but truly it would only be a guess. He thought on it, trying to focus and gain some insight but all Irtar gained from his bout of meditation was a cold, damp, and sore rump and a bit of a headache.
The next day, the doctor showed up like when he normally did, several minutes after the morning light from the window began beating on Irtar’s face. Irtar groggily waved with one hand to greet the doctor, as his body began to wake up. The doctor game over, and gave the leg a once over with a nod before leaving the room.
Once more, Hirotomo entered the room, with the doctor shortly behind him. “Good morning, Mal’Gro-san. My doctor informs me that your leg is healed enough to endure the walk up the mountain without risk of further injury.” Hirotomo said with an almost hidden hint of relief that just barely peaked over the surface. “It is surprising. Most others would have needed their leg removed after a fall like that…”
“Your old clothes have been repaired, and I will send for some supplies to sustain you for the trip. There is a rough path that hasn’t been maintained for years on the southern slope. The walk should take you less than a day, even in your current condition.” Hirotomo continued, giving a small bow of his head. “Your current clothes you may keep. Consider it a simple sign of the hospitality of the people of the mountains.”
“Well, thank-you for everything. I’ll try to make up for it someday.” Irtar gave a slight bow in return. Hirotomo’s gaze stiffened for a moment, then he turned and left the room. Irtar sat there for a moment, looking about the small room he’d called home for the past week.
The doctor entered the room with a small sack that Irtar assumed was the mentioned supplies. Irtar took it from the doctor who gave a slight bow in the process. Standing up with a groan, his leg still a bit stiff, Irtar looked in and found his old clothes, some dried fish, and a few fruits.
“Hey.” Irtar called out to the doctor who was leaving to return to his duties. The older man turned, and Irtar gave a deep bow to him. “I know you can’t understand me, but thank-you for everything. The room, changing the bandages, meals, everything.”
The doctor actually seemed a bit surprised by Irtar’s behaviour. He quickly returned the bow, dropping to his knees to bow lower than Irtar. When he righted himself, the doctor quickly got up back to his feet and hurried himself out of the room.
What a strange people….
Out of the protection of the valley, the cold wind of the mountains once more cut through Irtar to the bone. Even though his leg seemed largely healed, it throbbed fiercely in protest. The rough stone staircase had obviously been largely unused in a great deal of time.
Though he still couldn’t see the temple, as the staircase wound around the large mountain, Irtar could sense he was getting closer. He couldn’t quite put his find on it, but he just felt something in the Force that told him there was SOMETHING. But there was something else in it. Dread? Excitement?
Slowly, he made his way onward and forward making his first progress in so long. For the first time in years, he felt like he was actually making his way towards something. Not becoming a diplomat. Not happening upon people and trying desperately to do some good. But finally towards an end to the training that started all that time ago.
Finally to an end, not just another beginning.
The path winded along the course of the mountain, up and up. Stopping only every so often to eat the small bit of food he had to keep up his strength, he continued on the path. The village passed from sight, and soon something in the distance entered.
When he got closer, the building began to gain features. Whatever it was, it was old. The plaster on the walls had began to crumble with time. The wooden timbers that framed it had begun to weaken. And yet through some miracle, the building still stood. Coming from a world of prefab buildings, and everything treated with a variety of carbon reinforcement techniques, it was odd to see something truly beginning to crumble.
And yet, though it appeared to rot, Irtar felt that the thing was still… alive. Tentatively Irtar approached the building, bracing himself for what was to come.
Whether it be success or failure, whatever was to come Irtar knew it would finally be an end.
Mar 25 2009 2:30am
The air was something many people took for granted. Those who lived within an undeviating climate, the air was largely consistent. By the pattern of percipitation, sometimes wetter, sometimes drier. Sometimes colder and sometimes warmer. Sometimes brisker. But always relatively without change. The subtleties not so offensive so as to be noticable... but the air was not consistent, and not the same. As one rose, the air changed... became... less... less prevalent, less satistying. Less air made everything difficult... as one rose, then, one spent more to achieve less... the plateau, reached when climbing... reached through everything...
The air, here, was not as thin as it should be.
A thick fog had collected here, trapped as the clouds rolled over one peak without the momentum to roll over the next. This temple, built not at the top of the mountain, but in its side, was overcast on this day with a thick grey coating of mist... rain was possible, snow a distant imbrobability...
"He fractured his leg. Two places."
Ahnk Rasahanagok said, absently, his head leaning over the rail, watching Irtar's ascent from the distance. He was making good progress. A lesser man would be in bed right now, still recuperating. Lesser still, dead; having been unable to bear the shock of the wound and the cold.
"You speak of him like a father."
Ahnk smiled at that comment. He turned, and slowly nodded.
"When I train someone, it is to be more than merely a weapon. I say what I say to promote a certain style of personal evolution, but ultimately it is not merely how to fight that I train, but more importantly, why."
The other speaker advanced; soft felt footfalls barely audible as they echoed off the wet stone floor. "Any why," came the question, with a soft parting of her lips, "why, Master Ahnk, why do you fight?"
Ahnk stiffened as the woman closed. "I fight because they can't. Because they don't have the strength, the will to resist, to do..." Ahnk trailed off as a finger fell on his lips.
"You cannot lie to me, Master Ahnk, no more than you can lie to yourself."
"But then, those things are one and the same, aren't they?"
The question was met with silence, for the woman was gone. Ahnk let out a long, slow sigh.
She... he... it was right. He couldn't lie to himself.
Ahnk fought for revenge.
Ahnk did not fight for a better world; he fought because the pain on his soul for what had befallen him, and what he had brought to the world, would never cede. He fought because if he didn't the pain would destroy him. He fought because the pain was better used to destroy others.
For Ahnk Rashanagok, there was to be no absolution.
There would be no forgiveness for what he did when he faced the man at the gates with the list. For his crimes, Ahnk would burn.
But the same wasn't true for Irtar. Irtar Mal'Gro was better than Ahnk Rashanagok was now, ever was, or ever would be. For all his anger was born of valid reasons, and his vengeance directed against those who had wronged him.
The Jedi preach that fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, and hate leads to suffering.
Ahnk did not agree. Far too often, he saw that fear lead to cowardice. And cowering lead to suffering. Anger, used properly, lead to something much more beneficial.
Ahnk was sitting on the ledge when Irtar first saw him.
"Ah, Irtar. I was informed of your unfortunate injury, and confess I did not expect you to be here today. As such, I am somewhat at a loss as to what should be done. Are you tired?"
"A little," Irtar confessed honestly, "but I'd..."
"I'd rather just continue with the training," Irtar said, clearly annoyed at all the delays, the hoops and the conditions, the wait... "I've come a long way for this."
Ahnk smiled. "You're eager. And I appreciate that. But you fractured your leg in two places and you have a concussion. Your training will require you to be in suitable physical condition. As such, I intend to observe you and ensure that you are ready. For tonight, you will rest."
Irtar crossed his arms, not satisfied. "Fine. Do you mind telling me a few things?"
"Of course not."
"What is this place?"
"During a period what The Sith Brotherhood referred to as the Golden Age Of The Sith, the Sith sought to populate smaller worlds of the galaxy with training facilities. They were always placed on quiet worlds out of the spotlight of galactic affairs. When war broke out the Sith abandoned these training centers in favour of consolidating their power. But the temples themselves remained. Some of them were burned down in protest but some of them remain to this day. On this world, the temple was not only left intact, but actually utilizied."
Ahnk reached up to his chin, pulling the necklace Irtar had previously not noticed from around his neck. He threw it to him. Irtar caught it, and looked it over. "This is..."
"The mark of Exar Kun. The temples at Yavin 4 have it everywhere. But in this case, this artifiact does not date back to the days of the Sith, but was created by current day villagers at the base of the mountains."
Ahnk shook his head, smiling. "Just because a man holds a lightsaber does not make him a Jedi. No more does holding a Sith pendant make you a Sith."
"I don't understand."
"Then let's put it an entirely different way. Do you remember the Eternal Rogue Order?"
"When the Eternal Rogue Order rose to power, their soldiers adorned themselves with a logo on their shoulders. It was a red fist, closed tightly, raised up, against a black background, circled with red lines. Ring a bell?"
"Pretend for the sake of your metaphor that I am intimately familiar with it."
Ahnk grinned. He liked Irtar. Sure, he was a pain in the ass sometimes. But at least he wasn't fucking boring. "Okay. Well, the logo of the closed fist wasn't actually theirs. They found a company with the same logo. The logo was meant to instill unity in their workforce; the fingers metaphorical for each individual person. When joined together, as in the fist, the strength of the five amplified and magnified. A feel good logo, meant to encourage togetherness and the strength of the whole, rather than individual aspirations."
"Sure. I can dig it. Your point is...?"
"What do you think happened when the Eternal Rogue Order fell?"
"How am I supposed to know that?"
"It's the same thing that just happened when you looked at that necklace. Someone made an assumption."
"I don't follow."
"It's pretty simple. The company continued to operate on it's homeworld, even grew a little bit. But when they left Vandelhelm, they started to get noticed. And they got noticed because they had the logo matching up with one of the biggest, cruelest, bloodiest group of militaristic Sith lords around. Despite the group having nothing in common but the same homeworld and the same logo. Of course, the people on Vandelhelm knew of the company long before the Eternal Rogue Order, but even they began to turn against it when the pressure was strong enough. The company folded under the hatred, dissolved and dispersed, its leaders bankrupt, or worse, when facing an angry mob who made an assumption."
"So the people here didn't know they were Sith."
"They took over the temple, read the books, carried the amulets, but had no idea what a Sith even was. They've been meditating, training themselves how to heal small wounds, focusing their minds, but they had no idea they were embracing the guidance of Sith Lords."
"Interesting," Irtar said, throwing the amulet back to Ahnk. "So, since we know this is a Sith Temple, why are we here? Isn't this place tainted with the dark side?"
Ahnk grinned. "You've read too much old world propaganda. The Sith built temples in places rich with spiritual energy. Easy to draw from, and use to empower themselves. That energy is inherently neutral for the most part. Basically, this place has three things I need to suitably train you. Radiant neurelectric energy. Thin air. And a grotto."
"That's later," Ahnk said, and threw the amulet back to Irtar. "Keep it. As long it's near, I'll be able to summon you if and when I need you."
"And until then?"
Ahnk gestured behind him. "Down the hall to the right. Last door on the right side at the end of the hall. I made sure it was just you. I don't know how comfortable you'd be sharing a room."
"Very considerate," Irtar said with a frown, He slung his bag back over his shoulder, and slipped the amulet into a pocket in his robes. "Well, you have a good night; however you choose to waste it. When we're ready to get started, let me know."
Ahnk smiled as Irtar walked away, and then took a long, deep breath.
It had been far too long.
He sat atop a large stone chair, resting comfortably despite his thick black robes. He did not sweat, which given the heat and humidity in this forest, drenched in the afternoon sun, seemed almost impossible. His hands curled and uncurled at seemingly random intervals, clutching the stone with tight, black fingers. On one hand was a bright green tattoo, one of a sun and sword, matching the one that adorned the center of his forehead. The mark his master left him.
The dark cloaked man nodded slowly.
Across the field, another man, marked similarly with black and green tattoos, nodded his head in response. "Again."
Beside him, a man, naked from the waist up, nodded as well, slowly and not without much difficulty. His formerly pristine white pants were now stuck to his body with sweat and smeared of blood, blood that ran and splashed from wounds across his back. His arms strained, muscles taut and sore, to reach up and grab the ropes above, but he did so, grabbing them and pulling himself to stand firm.
The man behind twisted back his hips, his arms raising to the sky, and then pivoted on his feet, lifting one and driving it forward, turning his body in a pendular motion, unleashing with the kinetic energy stored therewithin through his hands. His hands, in which rested a long wooden rod. That rod met with the other man's back, causing him immediately to cry out in agony as the wood broke across his skin, and, conversely, his skin broke across the wood. Fresh wounds splintered across his skin like the spider web pattern of broken glass, his flesh shattering like a cheaply made window against the force of a cheaply made brick. Each cut lanced from one to the next, spreading wider where the two met. And each fresh cut added more blood to the wood, and to the remnants of the flesh, more, beautiful blood...
The man in the white pants collapsed to the ground, unable to remain standing as his entire body shuddered from the impact. He was losing his ability to endure pain, his entire musculature now worn down from the continued abuse of the man with the wooden rods. The never ending supply of wooden rods... no matter how many he had broken, more remained... no matter how many times he fell, always the nod, and always that blasted word...
The man on the ground turned. His body was weak, still shaking from a combination of delirious pain and adrenal nerve firings. He wanted to fight back, to save himself the agony of another strike, but knew that the warrior behind him was more than his match. He needed another way...
It only took a few seconds to draft one.
The man in the stone chair rose. His black robes remained behind, and he walked closer to the pair in a slightly thinner tunic and pant combination, the full measure of his hideous face revealed to the pair in the field. He watched, and tilted his head to the side.
"Because your Master has instructed that you bear the suffering. He is testing you."
"But what more can he learn? Surely he has seen by now the level of endurance I possess? This test is pointless. You can continue to injure me until I lose consciousness from the lack of blood, you can learn nothing more than the roadmap of scars have already told you."
The man from the stone chair drew closer. He took a wooden rod from the pile and began to draw within striking distance. He raised out his hand, and put the rounded edge of the rod on the shoulder of the wounded man.
"Your Master," the tattooed man with the unmarked hands spoke, "agrees with your assessment. You have proven the limits of your endurance. The test will continue with the one known as Hanna Skywalker."
The wounded man rose himself up then. "Don't touch her."
"And why not? If given the choice, would she not agree to bear the suffering, to save you further injury?"
"Don't ask her," the wounded man said, turning. He put his hands back on the ropes. "I'm not done yet. I'll finish your test."
"You already have. You are no longer required."
The wounded man turned and strode to the man with the tattooed hands. "You gave me your word that you wouldn't hurt her."
"And you," the other tattooed man replied, "you, Kahn, you vowed to commit to learning the ways of the Sith. You follow the directions on how and where to stand, but you refuse to learn anything. That is a choice, and perhaps one that requires motivation to change."
The wounded man spat, a large globule of blood falling from his lips to the grass. "Your instructions are cryptic and yours lessons vague and open to interpretation. You expect me to know what you want me to do before you've even asked me to do it and then you want me to know why. I can't read your mind, but you can read mine. So tell me I'm not trying to do what you asked."
The man with the sun on his forehead shook his head slowly. "Do, or do not," the other man said for him.
Kahn frowned. "Yeah, right," Kahn said, sighing. "I think we'd be getting better results if you left the vagaries in the books and were more open about what was required of me."
The man in the vest met Kahn's eyes, and then slowly nodded. "Very well," the other man said, and he stepped back. The vested man offered the wooden rod to Kahn, held out at chest level. "Take it."
Kahn was hesitant, but reached out to his master and took the rod from his hand. He felt it's weight, turned it over a few times to get a feel for the balance of it, and to see if his arms still worked properly with the abuse his shoulders had taken. "I don't understand," he said, holding the rod in his hand and looking from it to the tattooed Sith he had taken it from.
"If you understood, you would not need training," the duplicated man replied. The Sith folded his arms behind his back. "Strike him."
Kahn was confused. "What will that accomplish?"
The Sith snarled, not wanting to be kept waiting. "There is only one way to answer that question," the other man said. "Do as your Master commands."
Kahn sighed. He pulled back, twisting his hips, and swung the wooden rod...
...but the Sith was incredibly fast, and the wood struck only the flesh of his hand, his fingers seizing around it. "No," the other man said, shaking his head, as the Sith kept his gaze unflinchingly locked with his pupil. "Aim higher, and swing harder."
The Sith let the rod go, and Kahn nodded. He stepped back, and took a deep breath. Let the Force enter his nostrils and crawl through his body, archs of energy travelling from lungs to heart, and from heart to arteries, those arteries carrying life to all of his body, filling himself with strength...
He roared, stepping high, pulling one knee almost to his sternum, coiling himself. When his foot hit the earth again he threw himself onto it, his entire body driving forward, twisting perfectly, a textbook swing, one aimed for the temple of the snarling Sith Lord. Kahn expected the rod to stop, but it did not, impacting with all the force it had been delivered, the wood broke across the skull of Ahnk Rashanagok, snapping across his flesh...
...and nothing happened.
Kahn had swung harder than a pure mortal man could muster, with all the combined hatred he had for the Sith and what he was trying to do. With all of the rage in his body he had brought about all the strength that he was capable of to kill the abomination before, and yet the tattooed warrior stood still, unfelled, unmoved by the power of his blow.
Kahn realized he had fallen to his knees. He had put all of his energy into that, and Ahnk hadn't been knocked over... hurt in any obvious way. In fact, he was the one left standing. He offered his hand, which a confused Kahn accepted, and used to pull himself up to his feet.
"You have much to learn, Kahn," the other tattooed man said, as he approached. "Your lesson is complete for today."
With that, Ahnk and his clone began to walk away. "Wait!" Kahn shouted, and they both stopped. "What was that meant to show me?"
The clone offered a grin. "You resist, and resist, and resist, because you are conditioned from birth that pain is something to be fought, Kahn. But pain is not something to be fought. Pain, like anger, and fear, and gravity, is something that is natural, and absolute. It exists, and rather than fighting it, one must learn to channel it, and conquer it. Pain can be turned into a powerful driving factor; in pain the body creates natural adrenal responses, making you faster, stronger, and more alert, if one does not fight the pain. Allow pain to become your ally, as your Master Ahnk has, and you will be able to defeat all who oppose you."
Kahn nodded. It made sense, in a way... he just wished he had known that was the idea six hours ago, before they started hitting him.
"You will always be tested, Kahn, in this life and the next," the clone relayed the commands of his master. "You must learn to see behind the practicalities of the now to derive the true questions. Only then can you learn."
Only then, will you understand.
Ahnk watched the light get dimmer and dimmer as it flew slowly away, heading away from the valley, back towards the capital province of this world. Sinsang was a beautiful place, when one got right down to it. Moderate temperatures, suitable woodland growth, and, all things considered, excellent air.
The snapping sound from below brought Ahnk's attention back to the ground, away from the cold night air. Eyes focused back on the fire he had created. He held his hands over it, allowing them to warm up. Feeling the heat of the radiant energy below, pouring in through his pores, filling him with a calm feeling.
Calm drawn of the fire.
Ahnk allowed his lips to spread into a smile before drawing the communicator to them. "Irtar Mal'Gro, you are needed at the landing pad."
By the time Irtar had roused himself from his slumber, the fire had grown, now bending in the gentle wind, curving into sickles made of flame, breaking like ocean waves of heat, collapsing back into the greater, smoldering whole. The fire radiated warmth, so much so that Ahnk didn't even need to extend his hands to warm them any longer.
"Uh, hey," Irtar said, evidently still very tired. "You woke me up out of a deep sleep, and I'm assuming it wasn't to sing songs by the campfire."
"Take a seat," Ahnk commanded, and Irtar sat, cross legged, and folded his hands between his knees. "Do you remember telling me about building Irtar's Run, back on Naboo? The training course you designed?"
"Of course…" Irtar said, still groggy. "What are you asking me?"
"Did you know that its creation was all documented?" Ahnk asked, greeting Irtar's confused gaze with a nod. "The students there kept track of you building it, took photos of it in various stages of construction. Were curious as to what you were up to."
Ahnk held up a circular object; a data disk, upon which the information had been recorded.
"There's a lot here. From your arrival on Naboo... down through some of your duels in the later stages of your training, they captured almost everything..."
Ahnk allowed his lips to curl into a smile... and then allowed his fingers to curl as well, and let the disk slip from his grasp and fall into the fire.
"What..." Irtar said, his mouth opening in shock. "What are you doing?"
Ahnk reached into the case beside, and grabbed a handful of disks. "Oh, you'd be surprised how much these things hold..." Ahnk said, seperating one from the pile. "Of your political career." The disk slipped into the fire, replaced by another. "Of your visit with me to Bonadon... do you remember our mission there?" Into the fire. "Even... oh, Irtar. It took a lot of research to find these. Pictures, Irtar, of you as a child. Before your family... well, before." But once again, despite his words of pride at the procurement of the posession, he allowed it to slip, almost carelessly, into the fire below.
"What is this about?" Irtar asked, visibly agitated. "Are you testing me? Huh? To... see if I'd bear the pain of the fire? Is this another reminder that you want me to let go of the past?"
"You are always being tested, Irtar," Ahnk said, overturning the remainder of the box, and all of it's contents, into the fire. "But, perhaps the real test, is whether you can figure out what the nature of each test really is. Only you can tell me what you are learning today, Irtar. So... educate me. Teach me, Irtar. Teach me, right now, who you are."
May 10 2009 6:14am
Records, stories, pictures, schematics. All of it cast within.
Flames licked at a collection of ones and zeroes that represented the story of the life of Irtar Mal’Gro. Were they all that remained on records and databases of whom he was? Or merely copies? What did they bear on this ‘lesson’ Ahnk was seeking to impress on him?
Irtar watched the flames as they hissed and licked at the disks, as they twisted from a comforting glowing orange to a greener colour from the devices. Irtar brought his gaze up and looked Ahnk in the eye for a moment before smirking a bit.
“Well, I guess at the very least this means you think I’m healthy enough for my training to begin.” Irtar said before looking back to the flames. “But I’m also going to guess you didn’t go through the pain of gathering that information just to burn it. I got all of that to study who I am. So I’m guessing you’re not after the life story that brought me before you tonight. Heck, I’d wager you know more about those things than me now.”
“So, who is Irtar Mal’Gro beyond the records? Well, an apparently reckless kid who’s gotten himself damn near killed more than once. He’d like to think he was doing it for some greater good, but for the most part it hasn’t lead much further than where he started.” He said as he shifted slightly to shift some weight from his hurt leg to the other.
“Well, other than in position of the universe I guess.” Irtar added with a short laugh.
“But when you think about it, I’m still where I was when I first stepped into that temple on Naboo so long ago. Maybe even a few steps back.” The laughter and small smile on his face fading as his mind began to think of everything that’s passed.
“When I first met Leia, and started my training, the first thing she asked me was ‘Why did I want to be a Jedi?’. My response was for my family. And my choice only got my mother killed, and the rest of my family casting the blame on me. But I’m sure you already knew that. Well, let’s think of maybe doing some good?” And with that, a look of self-contempt took him.
“Oh that’s right. While I’ve been playing at politician the Jedi Order fell apart, and a bunch of kids like me have been getting killed by the Sith. I got lucky with the one that came for my head, but I doubt they were all as lucky as me. And instead of going out to help them? I was busy with office work.” Irtar declared, putting his head in his hands.
“Maybe it’s for revenge? But what would that make me to give into the hate? Every master, knight, and what have you has said that’d make me a Sith. Then I’d be no better than those bastards….” Irtar sighed, his frown turning into a sly grin as he let the next words loose. “Besides, I wouldn’t give Vodo the satisfaction of being right in being doomed to fall.”
“I’m here, because bad people are doing bad things to good people. And if I have the strength to stop them and do nothing, then I’d be worse than they are.” Irtar said as confidence returned to him. He looked up at Ahnk, that sly grind holding strong and true. “And I’ve had enough of doing nothing.”
“So what is the nature of this test? Why answer something you probably already know? I’m going to guess to the same reason Leia asked me why I was doing this. To remind me why I’m here and why I’m doing all of this, and not just for something petty.” Irtar concluded, as he looked around the mountaintop they were on.
“And really, if it was for something petty like fame or glory, I’d have given up way before getting here.”
Aug 20 2009 11:42am
Destruction erases all questions.
It had been said before, but Ahnk had never considered the words before today. Destruction erasing everything seemed natural because if something were destroyed, it seemed natural not to ask questions about it. After all, it had been destroyed, so knowing more about it did not seem to be very important.
But it was not so much a literal destruction through which information could be gleamed, but more a metaphysical deconstruction. To remove abstracts and additions from the base element through the process of targeted eradication. When one removed the tertiary information and found the core philosophy, one could cut through the mist to find answers. In this equation, questions were weapons.
What was Ahnk asking Irtar?
Only Irtar knew that. Ahnk couldn’t answer the questions because Ahnk wasn’t posing the questions. Irtar himself posed the questions.
When a human being looks at a wall, the wall shows to him as a color, be it white, or grey, or black, or red. But the wall itself does not have a color, and it does not present itself as an absolute value to every single individual. A person determines, through the eyes and the brain, the values of refracted light to appear as colors, and to interpret them as such. Memory allows us to see colors as similar based on similar patterns of refracted light, but those colors are not really there. It’s simply the light bending because of the base material and the coating of said material applied to the surface of the wall, and the way our eye interprets that bending of the light. Color didn’t exist in the real world; only in our minds.
A question is the same way. All a question is is a formation of sounds collected in a row that our brain interprets to form something requiring clarification. How we satisfy and clarify is left up to our brains as to how we felt the collection of sounds was meant to ask what. Though it is entirely possible for a person to ask a question with specific clarification in mind, it is often common for another person to answer in a way as such that satisfies the question without providing the desired clarification. Such is the risk of interpersonal vocal communication, because so much of what we hear is about processing what we hear into something that we understand. We take a question and answer it how we think it should be answered.
So Ahnk waited. Not for the answer to his question, but for an answer to Irtar’s question.
Irtar stopped speaking, and sat looking at Ahnk. Ahnk nodded.
“Good,” was all he said. He reached out, and rubbed his hands over the fire, letting them warm up.
“Good?” Irtar asked. “All you have to say is good?”
Ahnk nodded, rubbing his hands. It was very cold outside…
The water is another of the natural resources that has the tendency to both give and take.
Without water, plants could not grow. If plants could not grow, animals could not eat them. If animals could not eat plants, animals would not grow. If animals would not grow, people would not eat them. If people would not eat animals, people would not grow. If people would not grow, people would not grow up to become slovenly beasts who spend their social assistance cheques on disgusting pornography and too much liquor rather than providing for their children. Instead, people would die.
But water, in a more direct way, is capable of killing. The tides and bends of the sea make circumnavigation of many astral bodies a complicated task, if not altogether impossible. One misstep into too deep an ocean, and one may never be seen again.
The vastness of the water on some worlds is like the empty vastness of the space between the planets. The darkness, where only dust and the echoed sounds of long dead composers drift through the black. No air, no eyes. No color to be seen. Just the darkness, and the silence, of the space between.
The tips of a pair of black feathered wings were the highest part of her; the lowest were obscured by the blackness of the water in which she sat. It wasn’t exactly water, per se, but to describe it entirely would be entirely too complicated. When first learning to be a Sith, Ahnk Rashanagok had been taught of the grotto; a dark pool in which the genetic experiments and the alchemetic experiments of the Sith were regurgitated into a pool of semi-viable organic material. One day, almost by accident, the pool was given a sort of life, and the biological material became more than just a slurry. A man sat in the grotto with a missing arm, and when he rose, the grotto had crafted him a new one. The importance of such a pool was not lost on Ahnk, so when he arose to lead the Sith, he put the grotto inside a newly constructed temple, and erased all knowledge of it’s existence except from those he trusted absolutely.
She was one of those few.
She sat in the pool of fluid, because she was dead. Ahnk knew that, in the back of his head, but somehow didn’t understand how she could be kept alive. She could not be kept alive. She was dead. He knew that, but somehow, here, in the dust, and the darkness, clarity was fleeting. He always hoped, in talking to her, to learn something, to set his mind at ease, but answers never came. Only the curves of her wings, her shoulders, her lips, and that which was obscured by the pool of reanimated death.
“You have questions,” she asked.
Ahnk nodded. “I always do.”
She reached back, placing her arms on the edges of the stone behind, and stretched out her spine. “You come to me for answers. Why?”
Ahnk thought about that for a second. “You’re inside my head. Which means you’re a part of me. Since I’m asking the questions myself, it seems only logical I answer them myself. But if I could draft a consciously logical answer, I would do so while I was conscious. Thus, I need to reach a part of me that isn’t a part of my normal consciousness. Hence, you.”
She smiled a hideous smile. “You’re learning. You used to just come here for the sex.”
Ahnk frowned. “Not just.”
“Perhaps, not just,” she said, and rose, the slurry sliding from her, replaced with the intricate black web that was the carapace she resided in. “I’m going to tell you something, Andrew. Something you know, but are afraid to admit to yourself. The reason why you continue to see me, and talk to me. It’s not about the sex. It’s not about the questions of the day, or in finding a part of you that you can’t find when you’re awake.”
Ahnk nodded, curious. “What reason would that be?”
“Because I represent something about you that you cannot let go of. That you have not yet come to terms with. I am a physical embodiment of that aspect of your life, and everything therewithin. The one thing you cannot deal with, or accept as a natural passage of being alive, the one thing that you shun, and hide, but can not just simply move past.”
She stepped from the slurry. Her long, green legs, broken up by an occasional jut of hard, brown bone, skin smooth but for the scales and the scars, ending in a set of taloned feet, landed softly on the stone below, wet slurry of the grotto dripping from her thighs and knee. As the claws slid against the hard stone with a scraping noise, she approached him, and he held fast. She put a clawed hand against his head, letting the tips of the sharp blades press softly into his cheek, then leaned up, putting her lips against his ear.
“I am your failure, Andrew Micheal Rashanagok,” she said. “I am the death of Andrea Rashanagok, the corruption of Emily Montague, the betrayal of Chang. I am what you did to Kahn. I am how you failed the Jiren child. I am your lack of progress with Irtar Mal’Gro. I am every wrong turn and malfunction. I am all the corpses, and all the lies. And perhaps even more damning, I am the inconvenient truth.”
Ahnk turned his head, until his lips almost grazed against hers. “What truth?” he said, in a broken, breathless tone.
“That you will never redeem yourself,” she said, close enough that he could taste every word. “There is no action, or series of events, through which you can ever undo the damage that you have caused the galaxy at large. You will never be forgiven, and when the time comes that you die, this time, for the last time, you will forever burn, floating in a sea of fire, enduring a thousandfold the pain you have done to others.”
“If I am to burn,” Ahnk said, before taking a deep breath, “and float, in fire, and in pain, will you be there with me?”
The smile widened; more sinister than before. “Do not believe the wings, for I am not an angel.”
“No, I do not suppose you are,” Ahnk said. He turned his spine just enough to press his lips to hers, tasting the dust and the death of her corpse on his tongue, before pulling back, and stepping away. “I believe I have the answers that I need now. A part of me will long to be dead, to swim in the burning ever after with my lost love beside. Until that day, my dear. Until that day.”
Once you have destroyed everything, you can create anything.
Once all of the lies have been dispelled, and the brick walls all destroyed, and only the truth remains, one is free to use that truth and create from it an entire world of his own choosing.
That world can be a paradise, or a prison. One makes of answers the same as one makes of questions. Information is not an exact science, but open to interpretation.
“What you told me is good,” Ahnk said. “You know who you are. You know where you’ve been, what you’ve done, and why you are where you are. You’ve come to me because you want to know where you’re going. That’s fine. That’s good. One day, when you understand, you will not need anymore training. Until then…”
Ahnk pulled back his hands. As he did so, the fire came with him… curling, and bending, as if it were a blanket, tethered to his fingers. It danced with the movements of his arms, folding, and turning in on itself, until he had pulled the fire back into his gloved palms. As Irtar looked at the pit, he realized that there had never been a fire; Ahnk had created the heat and the sound, but the items inside were undamaged, unaffected by the illusion.
“Once you strip away the lies, only the truth remains,” Ahnk said. He held out his hands, which still smoked. “What is more important than finding the truth is finding out how best to use it. You asked me why I asked you the question. I asked you the question so you would ask yourself the question. But you already knew the answer. That saves us a lot of time. You have your reasons. That's a good start.”
Ahnk brushed off his hands, and stood up. “I believe I have given you enough to think about. Go get some rest. We will begin again when the sun rises.”
He began to walk, and then turned. “The disks are yours to keep. I suggest you take them with you before someone actually starts a fire.”
With that said, Ahnk retreated to the confines of the building, eager to rest his head.
He had some destruction to do.