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Old 11-26-2008, 11:54 PM   #7
mshcherbatskaya
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Join Date: Nov 2008
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The Old Republic: Queen of Hearts - Chapter 2

An Introduction:

Ythros... No last name... never a last name... or did he forget it? He can't remember. He is human, and from his features seems to be of one of the core worlds, except for the scars. The scars come from a lot of worlds. They tattoo his body completely, from his toes to his scalp, no hair grows through the scar tissue that blankets his thin frame, he is a patchwork man, a living monument to pain.

Perhaps the most paradoxical Jedi in existence, he resides fully in the dark side, only fighting with the Jedi through a hate for the Sith so deep it overcomes even his own natural affinity with them.

Records show a boy named Ythros was accepted into the order 23 years ago, only to go missing five years into his training. Abducted at 9 by the Sith, his legacy of agony began young. A prisoner for four years he was tortured each day, his link with the Force subdued with drugs and the presence of Sith Lords. He is known to have been one of the first victims of a young Darth Athrix in the time he spent in apprenticeship.

His world was pain. And it still is: although he escaped Athrix's torture chambers, the Dark Lord tortures him still, and in times of distress, anger, or sadness, when Ythros cannot inflict it on others, he seeks comfort in inflicting pain upon himself.

When a Jedi assault freed the prisoners of that center, he still had his sanity but his link with the Force was stunted and twisted. He ran from even his saviors and fled off-world in the engine workings of a transport, the extreme heat and spinning gears of the mechanism nothing compared to the endurance needed to resist submitting to the dark side under the Sith.

He was captured by Trandoshans the day that transport landed. From place to place he was transported, always on the cusp of freedom. When he arrived on the steps of the Jedi Temple seven years ago he was already completely covered in scars, and after a plea to the Council, was accepted back into the order under probation.

He has hunted Sith ever since for his twisted Force connection, using it as his greatest weapon.

Because almost every scar of Ythros' body he put there himself, with the single power he possesses, the one he used to finally escape and rejoin the Jedi, the power born of the circumstances he was 'blessed' with.

If Ythros has an injury, he can give it to you. If you cut him you too will bleed, and if you don't, he will cut himself. On two occasions he has disemboweled himself to kill rooms of Sith troops. He carries only a pair of 6-inch knives, serrated on one side, as his weapons. And he can use them on others just as well as on himself. He is a living avatar of agony, his limited powers useless for anything except his perverted gift, and even then he cannot use that indefinitely, because he has only so much blood and even he can take only so much pain.


Ythros had heard a Sith had surrendered herself in the temple.

Technically, he shouldn't have. When the masters received the woman, they had asked the service personnel to request Ythros' presence for a discussion over the repeated state of his bedding. Ythros, after a lengthy explanation of why he felt the need to leave bloodstains on his mattresses, was making his way back when he almost ran into an excited youth who had witnessed the Sith in transit. After a brief conversation with the somewhat careless Jedi, Ythros made his way to the detention cells.

The Jedi on watch at the detention block saw him coming and sent a comm for one of the senior Jedi. The 'Scarecrow' had a temper at the best of times, and after an argument over laundry and hearing of a Sith within throttling distance, he had an even more impressive scowl than usual. Not that anyone would notice, the scars made any expression on that face into a macabre grin or twisted frown... depending on the angle a person was looking from.

"Ythros, I see you heard about the prisoner--" he began, but was cut off with a look before Ythros spoke.

"Enough Jollen, move aside now," he said slowly.

"I can't Ythros, we don't murder prisoners."

Ythros tilted his head. "Murder? I would never kill a prisoner Sith, Jollen, not while I have something as harmless as a knife-point."

The look from the would-be-jailor indicated this was not a suitable response.

"Jollen, I wouldn't kill a prisoner, but I might just knock you out to see her," he said with an amiability at odds with the words spoken.

"Ythros, don’t, it's no--"

"Bugger. Hand slipped," Ythros said, releasing his neck where he had grabbed his own nerve cluster. He was immune to the pain, Jollen was not and he passed out.

Ythros stumbled inside, even such a minor effort exerted his ability. He was still recovering from his most recent hunt, so he gathered himself before walking to the cell that contained the odd woman, a paradox in Ythros' mind, both a Sith and a willing prisoner. To Ythros the idea was like keeping a python as a scarf.

"So, You're what's causing such a fuss hereabouts," he said, scanning over the creature.

She regarded him with perfect calm.

"I do wonder why you're here. In my experience Sith, don't often wander into temples, but then again in my experience Sith were never very intelligent."

Her smile was gracious, her voice coolly amused. "That has been my experience as well. It's one of the reasons I left."

"I also wonder if you realize that yo-" He began again, but was cut off.

"Where did you get that one?" The Sith asked and pointed to his face.

Ythros stood still "Which what?"

"You have a particular scar on your jaw line. It's very deep, but also very delicate," she inquired intently.

Ythros felt the wound. "Laser edged scalpel. I got into a fight with a surgeon who wanted to stick a tracking transmitter into my heart, where I couldn't pull it out like the last one. In my pelvic cavity,” he said with almost a hint of pride.

"And the surgeon?" she continued.

"He stabbed me in the arm, and then bled to death of the wound," Ythros replied, frustrated at losing control of the exchange.

For once the woman seemed interested, her eyes opened just a fraction wider and she leaned just a millimeter forward. She hid it well, and Ythros missed it completely, but there was something almost like wonder in her voice when she replied.

"How extraordinary you are."


...

Nahila was looking out the window at the pale yellow sunshine, wishing she were walking around outside rather than sitting behind her desk, when Ketan knocked politely on the partially open door.

"Ketan! Thank you for coming. Please, have a seat." She gestured towards a chair and Ketan sat down with a grateful grunt, stretching his long legs out in front of him.

"Long day?" Nahila's legs were much shorter, but she could sympathize.

"Yes," said Ketan with a sigh, "it seems as if the hours are growing."

She sighed in agreement. "Yes it does, and I'm afraid I'm about to make your day a bit longer. You have heard about our new guest?"

"Yes. Quite odd." His face and voice were unreadable. He could have been talking about unusual weather.

"I don't know what to make of her." The Sith woman, oh, she was a nightmare already, and she hadn't even done anything yet.

"From the file I read, it doesn't seem to piece together well." Trust Ketan to stick to facts in the midst of uncertainty.

"I want to believe that she truly wishes to turn to the light..."

"As do I..." Ketan agreed.

"I am filled with doubts," she shook her head and threw up her hands. "But how is that any different than before she arrived, right? This war..." She sighed again. She sighed a lot these days. “Everything we do is wrong. Everything we don't do is wrong...”

"I have thought long and hard about my previous actions. I don't wish to stand around on this. If she has a chance, I am willing to try." His uncertainty, his self-doubt over his actions, or rather, inaction, never really left him. Nor did his determination to do the right thing, when he thought he knew what it was.

"Good, because that is what I want you to do. Try and find out why she is here. Try to turn her to the Light, even if that was not her purpose."

"I will do my best." He always did his best, which is why she relied on him. "I can only hope the Force will help me find the right path to my goal." So orthodox, though. A little inflexible perhaps. Still, better rigid than soft with this one. She was slippery. Nahila could feel it.

"We have lost so many Jedi to the Sith, perhaps the Force has decided to even the balance just a little. Your dedication to the Light is unquestioned and you have always been careful and deliberate in your actions--we need these with her."

"I know my dedication to the Light is unquestioned, but what about my actions. I know the others hold their tongues. I don't need the force to see what they think." Poor Ketan, still so defensive after all this time.

She soothed him as best she could. "None of our actions go unquestioned anymore There is not a Jedi left who goes undoubted, unquestioned, especially by themselves."

That seemed to reassure him. "Yes. It feels as we are all changing our outlook, for the better or worse. Enough about that, I know my duties now."

She hesitated a moment. "Are you at peace with your decisions in the War?"

"Peace is relative." In other words, no.

"Is it?"

"Yes, I have struggled with what I did or didn't do. I have come to the conclusion that I must learn from my actions, as that is all I can do. If I must face what happened every day as my punishment or gift, so be it. I will make a point not to let it effect my connection with the Force."

Nahila gave him an understanding smile. "I suppose it is better to learn from your actions than learn from your mistakes."

"Yes. I take what little comfort I can in that." He returned her smile just a little.

Her tone became serious. "At any rate, I want you to watch over this Erzabet. Be her mentor. Be her guardian. Be her prison guard." She leaned forward, urgency in her voice. "Guard her, protect her. And guard and protect us."

Ketan shifted uncomfortably in his seat. "Speaking of such, it was mentioned that I will have another with me on this duty. May I ask who it is?" Changing the subject without appearing to change the subject. He was good at that.

"There is a soldier of the Republic who will assist you in watching over her."

"A soldier?" Ketan frowned. "What business does he have in this?"

"He will focus on her safety and yours, while you guide her."

That made him a bit more touchy than she had expected. "You and I both know I am well capable of protecting myself, as I expect she can."

"He is not a Jedi, and so he has little lure to a Sith," she started to explain.

Ketan looked a little offended and slightly stunned. "What? He might not be a immediate target but he will fall to even the slightest trick."

She had not expected him to be so difficult about this. "He has fought the Sith before, and I do not think she will show much interest in him. We have noticed that she pays very little attention to those who are not Jedi, who show no strength in the Force."

That seemed to satisfy his pride. "Very well. I will trust your judgement."

Nahila continued, "Like many Sith, she probably disregards anything she does not perceive as a threat."

"Maybe, but this is no normal Sith," Ketan said. "We cannot use the norm."

"No, she is not like any Sith I have known," she agreed. "She has no strength, she has no combat training, and she lacks the passion that fires most Sith."

"Couldn't she conceal these things with a powerful mind?”

"Perhaps," Nahila agreed, "which is why you must be on your guard. I know you meditate daily on the Light, I know this guides you and gives you strength, and you have an empathy for others that gives you insight into their actions."

"I try." He looked out the window, perhaps like her, wishing he were out walking in the sunlight, rather than talking over dark matters in an office. "Why is it that us Masters never make it known to the padawans how hard the path of Light is?"

Nahila gave him a rueful look. "We try, but they don't believe us, do they?"

"Never,” said Ketan with a wistful smile.

"Everything is easy when one is young, easy or impossible." She chuckled at the memory of her own triumphs and despairs, and of those of all the younglings who had come to her in this office, in confidence or tears. "So you have no objections then to this soldier?"

"No. I will take this and do the best I can." His tone was cooperative, if not exactly gracious.

Nahila shrugged. "I can't ask for more than that." She leaned over and spoke into the comm. "Corev, would you join us in my office please?"

Corev stepped through the door a bit quickly. Clearly, he'd been waiting very nearby. "Yes Master Jedi, you have need of me?"

Ketan did not see pleased about this at all. "I did not know this would be a group discussion." It was unlike him to be so irritable. Or rude.

"It is only an introduction." She shot him a look. "Corev, this is Ketan. He will be the guide and guardian to Erzabet in her return to the Light."

Corev extended his hand in greeting. "It is a pleasure to meet you Master Ketan. It will be an honor to work with you."

At least Ketan had the sense to recognize when he was being unreasonable. "Apologies." He shook the other man's hand. "It will be an honor to work with you as well. However, I have not heard much about you. Information seems to be scarce these days." It was Ketan's turn to shoot her a look. Oh, Force. If the Jedi were this troublesome today, what was the Senator going to be like? She didn't even want to think about it."

"I am an officer for the Republic," Corev explained. "I am on this case to act as their liaison."

Nahila added, "They are concerned, as we all are, that this may be some sort of trick."

"I see. I am sorry about the questions, I just am wary of traveling with strangers." Ketan might be more polite now, but he was clearly no less put out. Time to re-phrase things in a different light, so that he didn't feel he was being undermined somehow.

"Corev will aid you in keeping the Senate and military out of your way. They will pester him rather than you. Or me." Let her work the sympathy angle then. Poor her, always chased this way and that by every bureaucrat in the Republic.

That seemed to work. Ketan finally relaxed enough to let out a little chuckle. "Yes, he might be of great use."

Corev's face was as unreadable as his Force presence. "It is no trouble at all Master Jedi. If you don't mind I would like to know a little about you. So I know who I am working with of course." Ketan seemed to respond to his professional tone, though.

"Certainly, I am Ketan Forar, Jedi Master. I have lived in this very temple since the age of 3 and have trained since. As for my connections to the Force and lightsaber, they are private, if you don't mind."

Or not. "Ketan!" she snapped, appalled at his lack of manners. "I do not think Corev would be so impertinent." Unlike Ketan himself.

"What?" he said, as though he hadn't been just as rude as he'd presumed Corev to be.

Corev, however, seemed more amused than offended. "Master Nahila, it is fine, I have no interest in those subjects." Which was absolutely the truth, more than Ketan would ever guess.

"I did not mean any offense." Ketan stared at the tips of his boots like a youngling who'd been caught at something.

Nahila couldn't resist a quick wink at Corev. "He understands the Jedi and their ways better than most."

"As I said, I meant no offense."

"The only thing I care about is whether or not he is able to do what is required." So Corev could play Ketan's little game, too.

It worked. Ketan was genuinely apologetic. "Recent events have had me on edge. Please don't take anything I say as an attack on you."

Corev took his little victory in stride. "Not at all. You are cautious which is good."

"As you are calm-tempered." Ketan added.

"Only because I have no reason not to be."

Nahila was relieved. At least the territorial posturing was done. "I assure each of you that I would not have assigned either of you if I had any doubts as to your abilities."

"I meant no offense of course, Master Nahila," it was Corev's turn to apologize. "I only wanted to be sure."

Ketan took on an official tone. "Well, it seems we now have a charge to attend to. Is that all Nahila?"

Nahila decided to drive the point home. "As long as you can work together, I have nothing more to say, if you cannot work together I shall have a great deal more to say, but that will be later," and she gave them both a little wink to take the sting off her rebuke.

Ketan smiled and relaxed. Finally. "Very well. A pleasure Nahila."

Her work here was done. Her work elsewhere, not so much. "So, if you don't mind, Corev will keep the Republic out of your way. I am not so lucky, so I am off to speak to yet another senator."

"The life of a Jedi, always exciting," said Ketan with a sympathetic chuckle.

Nahila sighed. “I begin to regret this woman already. She generates far too much curiosity."

"Of course Master Nahila, I will leave you now. Master Ketan, I assume I am to follow you to our charge?" Corev was doing his officer act, and it was working.

"I pass her into your capable hands. The senator I keep for myself. Lucky me." She rolled her eyes for emphasis.

Ketan responded with his own brisk Jedi act. "Yes, lets see what we have to deal with."

"After you, Master Jedi," said Corev, opening and holding the door for the other two. Oh, he was good. Definitely the right man for the job. As she passed him, he threw her a quick wink. Ah, old friend, it is so nice to have you back.

...

Once again, Cain was brooding at his desk. The Jedi were supposed to uphold justice, and peace - yet there was none of either to be seen here. That woman, Sith or not, had sought sanctuary and instead a neural disruptor had been clamped around her neck, and Cain was fairly sure that she had been left in solitary confinement. Half-sedated by a fancy collar and left in a cell; a pretty poor excuse for sanctuary. Was that what she had really wanted, though? It seemed like undeniable truth when she herself said it, but now that she was gone, Cain had his doubts.

Admittedly small doubts, but ones that were certainly persistent. Cain's initial suspicion was that the Sith had some form of assault planned, but there would be no logic to this - she was not only weaker in the Force than Cain himself, but she came utterly alone, and she must have expected the Jedi to be untrustworthy and dogmatic in their approach when offering the 'redemption' she claimed to be seeking. So, unless she was carrying several thermal detonators on her person, then there was little chance of her devastating the Temple. She even gave up her weapon and revealed her allegiance upon entry, which was hardly a sound tactical move if she was planning an assault.

Thus, Cain could not see any validity to his small suspicions, and therefore believed that there were none to be had. There was a woman being kept prisoner for unjustifiable reasons, and it was his duty to demand this situation be resolved...with permission, of course. Cain was hasty but not idiotic, he was not about to gallantly storm the cells and break this Sith out, for that way ended in being stabbed...or thrown in solitary confinement himself. No, Cain was going to very politely request her release, and that required visiting Master Nahila.

Cain did not dislike Nahila on a personal level, but there was certainly a strong amount of resentment that he directed towards her. She represented many of the reasons that Cain worked a desk instead of cutting through swaths of enemies on unknown battlefields. Therefore it was not Nahila that Cain felt contempt towards but rather what she seemed to stand for so rigidly, and this was only reinforced by her treatment of the female Sith he had come to admire.

A few minutes later Cain found himself brooding at someone else's desk, the main counter in the entrance to the Jedi Temple.

"What? No, no I don't have an appointment - why do I even need one? She's a Jedi Master, not a politician, can you please inform Master Nahila that I need to see her?"

A look crossed the young Jedi's face that suggested he was about to dictate a line he must say at least a dozen times a day. "I will but without an appointment you aren't likely to get in to see her, she is currently conferring with a Senator."

"So I have to wait for her to recover from a senator-induced coma as well? Could you possibly make me an appointment? For tomorrow?"

"Hmm...Yes, I do believe there's a five minute gap tomorrow morning, is that acceptable?"

"No, acceptable would have been me seeing her within the next hour, but tomorrow morning is at least an outcome that doesn't involve me drawing my lightsaber. I'll be back tomorrow morning."

-------------------------------

The Escapist QoH Crew:

CHAPTER TWO


mshcherbatskaya (Erzabet and Nahila) – story creator and executive director in charge of making people re-write their stuff because she's the boss and she can

Tsurugi (Corev) – assistant director in charge of making us realize that this thing is getting really long and also kind of awesome

Qayin (Cain) – assistant director in charge of Emo

Flanked (Ketan) – assistant director in charge of flaking out on his writing responsibilities

Ultrajoe (Ythros) – assistant director in charge of Epic

--

Regarding Ythros:

Ythros is a character Ultrajoe created for a previous story, and since he was an existing character, we already knew his origin story and his abilities and just carried on with him. You, on the other hand, don't have that advantage, so we have the intro up front.
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