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Old 11-30-2008, 05:44 PM   #19
mshcherbatskaya
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Join Date: Nov 2008
Posts: 18
The Old Republic: Queen of Heart - Chapter 4

Nahila watched Cain storm out of the room. Oh, the pity! So misunderstood! So unappreciated! So enamoured with his own dramatic flair she wanted to pour a glass of water over his head. He was probably stomping back to his room and throwing himself down on his bed right now. She'd never minded the Jedi injunction against having a family, and she'd never had a padawan of her own, mainly because she didn't particularly like children, especially when they were almost 30 years old. She didn't know whether to blame Cain's old master for this or pity him.

Still, there was the question, why did he care about this Erzabet so much? He'd seen the woman all of, what, 5 minutes? Maybe 10? She was pretty enough, but really, a Jedi shouldn't allow such things to turn his head. Of course, a Jedi shouldn't go stomping out of people's offices in a raging sulk. Cain was bored, yes, and the woman had the charm of novelty, and she doubtless appealed to his sense of gallantry. He couldn't resist the opportunity to fight in defence of the helpless, as witnessed by his running off to the wars, but really, no one with the word "Darth" in their name was truly defenseless. And of course, Nahila had received nothing but trouble and pushback from Cain since that day she accepted him back. Great Force, but she'd had to battle the Council tooth and nail to get him that seat at the desk, and for what? "I hate this place..." Well, you aren't chained to that desk, you know, and it is right in front of the door. Of course, she couldn't do that. The boy was constantly hanging his toes over the edge of the Dark Side as it was.

She might have written it off to a very un-Jedi combination of rebellion and chivalry, but there was also Ythros to consider. All the sympathy she should could not feel for Cain, she could not help but feel for the mangled, suffering creature that had, at one time, been a simple human boy. She'd fought for him too. The Council had accused her of misguided pity but it wasn't that. Ythros was a potent weapon and an even more potent example. No apprentice, no padawan, no one ever left Ythros' presence with any romantic ideas about the allure of the Dark Side. He was a tattered rag of a creature, tied around the dead branch of his consuming hatred of the Sith. So it was no surprise that he'd made his way down to the holding cell where Erzabet was kept, mere minutes after her arrival.

Nahila watched the security holo again and again. Ythros clearly intended to torture the woman to death. Even with the collar, she could not have failed to sense that, and his appearance alone was enough to make most people recoil in shock. But she had received him with perfect calm and had, with the merest question, turned him aside. Her self-possession was remarkable. It was almost a pity that Ythros had left the captive Sith to go pursue his usual prey in the wild. She would have liked to observe them together a bit more. Instead, she was left to ponder the encounter. Had he left her because she was not a Sith and thus held no interest? Or because she had managed...something? Ythros was amazingly resistant to any sort of Mind Trick or Persuasion, so the second possibility was either unlikely or more than a little alarming.

She watched more of the security recordings, looking for something, anything, that would give her the key to this woman. There was nothing. Perhaps that was her only clue. Erzabet did nothing. She barely moved at all. There was a viewscreen in her room (cell?--that was no cell, it was nicer than Nahila's own quarters) that served as a window of sorts, and she sat and stared at it for hours. Once an hour, she would get up, walk back and forth in the room, do a set of exercises and return to her place watching the screen. The screen itself was not that interesting. It displayed the same city view one could see from one of the better guest rooms, pretty but not entrancing. Once a day, she would bathe, change her clothes, and tend her hair. She never attempted to speak to the guards, except to thank them when they brought her meals. At times, she appeared to meditate. But for the most part, she was as still as a statue.

Perhaps, like Ythros, she had developed a certain single-mindedness, a protective obsessiveness that had allowed her to withstand the brutality of her training with the Sith. She wasn't strong enough in the Force to have survived among them, Nahila knew that in her bones. Strength in the Force? No. Strength in combat? She doubted it. Which left only one other possibility.

Strength of will.

In truth, of the three, that was the one she feared the most.

...

Checking back in was always fun.

Gabrill, the rather petite Jedi who was on the door, was terrified of Ythros. The little woman was a fantastic judge of character, which made her opinions of Ythros all the more fun to exploit, because he had a scary character, and she judged this most correctly.

That said, there were few padawans or younger Jedi who didn't have a part of their mind frozen with an image of the Scarecrow on their first meeting.

The Temple had seen fit to employ him as an object lesson in 'Dark Side Studies,' as he jokingly called it. About twice a year he would randomly and abruptly be greeted with great comradeship by one of the senior Jedi who he barely knew or just plain hated. Always, there was some padawan behind the Master, trying not to stare.

When the conversation was over, Ythros would be left to imagine the wonderful little tale of how he ended up with more straight lines on him than a Balkiga board being told to the padawan around the corner. "Look", the lesson went, "on what we can fall and become."

He wouldn't have minded if he'd known the names of the Jedi who pretended to know him so they could shock some knowledge into the trainees. But even the Jedi were a little afraid of Ythros.

He was so close to having 'Darth' preceding his name, one of the more adventurous teens had scratched it into the name-plate on his door. That was a great day. The boy had turned around straight into Ythros and soiled himself.

But he understood. He was a curio like the woman in the cells was to him...

Why he had come back? He could not shake the thought of her from his head. Not a hate, nor any form of desire... she was simply a reoccurring thought during his brief hunting bout.

He managed to get Gabrill's eyes to bulge when he walked in. a further double-take was elicited by the fact that he was stark naked. He had come express from his shuttle and he had lost his only robe on his travels. Nothing like the sight of a 6-foot scarred, naked man to wake a person up, he reasoned. And he imagined this stagnant little Jedi day-spa could use some waking.

"Hello Gab, I’m just checking back in. I'd like to take a quick bath before I see anyone from the Council if you don't mind." He dropped a lightsaber onto the reception desk. its black hilt and skeletal design marking it as a Sith device. "I imagine there are proceeding for dealing with this kind of thing, Gab, i treasure my ignorance on them."

Leaving the stunned door-Jedi, he made his way back to his room, or tried too. Seeing an opportunity, a newly promoted Master saw fit to educate his padawan.

Well, at least for once the blasted child wasn't staring at his face. Nothing untoward though. It wasn't as if he had any genitalia left to look at

...

Nahila could have summoned him to her office like any other Jedi but Ythros wasn't any other Jedi, and besides, he tended to leave little blood drips around and she'd just gotten a new carpet. Not that he was generally irritated into self-injury by her, but getting past her assistant never failed to set him off. Helim was very good at his job, which meant that he was very, very good at stonewalling people who wanted to see her. Even when they were invited, Helim would stop them and insist on check-in and every single bit of protocol. She was deeply grateful to him for this. Those minutes created by his skilful delays were often the only minutes she had to herself from one end of the day to the other. She'd long ago given up on the concept of regular meals, but she still had to pee once in a while. The fact that Ythros would insist on walking right into her office and the fact Helim would not back down before the Scarecrow's horror-show glare frequently resulted in blood. Occasionally for both of them.

But instead, today she went to intercept him on his way to the detention block. He'd come back, caused a scene (which, to be honest, amused rather than shocked her) and then made his way down to stare at the Sith again. She was almost inclined to let him. They were very interesting together and she was sure the holo recordings from the security cameras would prove enlightening. Once in a while, though, it was good to remind him that he was still answerable for his actions in this place. Specifically, he was answerable to her.

As he rounded the corner to the guard station, clearly expecting to bully past the guards, he found her instead, seated on one of the guard's stools, right in front of the door.

"Hello, Ythros, I heard you were back. Made quite a stir. How in the name of the Force did you manage to lose all your clothes?" Her tone to him was affectionate, genuinely so, which always seemed to unnerve him just a little. She liked unnerving people, just as he did, and took a certain vicarious pleasure in the whispering ripples of shock he generated everywhere he went.

"What are you doing here?" His voice was as ragged as his face. She'd heard that prolonged screaming could scar the vocal chords. From what she understood of his past, she was amazed the damage hadn't rendered him mute.

"Funny, I was about to ask you that." She held his gaze and he blinked. Score one for her.

He scowled. She'd learned his face over the years and that was definitely a scowl. "I've come for the Sith."

"But she isn't a Sith, not any more."

"So she says."

"Yes," Nahila agreed, "so she does say, and we are strongly considering the possibility that she is telling the truth."

"Sith lie."

"True, which is why she is in the detention block. And while we are determining whether or not she is telling the truth, she is not a Sith, she is a prisoner." She stood to look directly into his eyes, "And the Jedi do not kill their prisoners."

"You can't stop me from seeing her."

"Nor do I intend to try. But I will ask you this. Why do you want to see her?"

He had no answer. She stood, eyes locked with his, until he spun on his heel and strode away. The sharp sounds of his boot heels striking the floor did not conceal the snap of his finger breaking. She winced at the sound.

The medical staff would be in her office complaining about him within the hour. She sat back down on the stool, leaned back against the wall, closed her eyes, and savored the quiet. This Erzabet brought trouble. Nahila didn't need to be gifted with Shatterpoint to see that.

...

If wills were solid objects, the bitch would be a bastion.

She treated him like some overblown bully who she could simply ignore! He was not overblown...

But she was right on one thing... he didn't know why he wanted to see the Sith. He couldn't kill her, and couldn't stand her. Perhaps that was the reason. She was something that did not fit into his worldview and for that reason was an insatiable enigma.

A Sith.

He remembered the hunt he had just been on, following a testosterone-fueled Sabre-Master through the under-halls of an ancient spire city. He had been a brute. Ythros lurked in the shadows and the terrified behemoth thought that if he charged his fears they would melt before his blade. Ythros was fear that fought back.

The pair had duelled for almost an hour, in second-long exchanges punctuated by bouts of stalking, before Ythros slid a knife under his guard and bled out his ribcage. Not a drop of his own blood spilled. Nahila would have been proud.

Ythros was making up for lost time.

Knives danced in expert patterns around his skin, weaving an intricate tapestry on his torso, gentle curves at odds with his other short scars and war-trophies. He had taken the design off the tattoos on the Sith he had killed in those dark halls. He had never scarred himself in any pattern before, but now the opportunity for something more imaginative had arisen.

He wondered if he should one day seek actual tattoos. The designs on that flesh had intrigued him. He found references to them in the Jedi library to which he did not have full access. He found a way in, however. They were not a Sith design, belonging to a tribe of canopy-dwelling humanoids. With all relation to the foe aside, he had seen fit to mark them on his flesh.

It was a meditation. A preparation. Sinking into the warm oblivion of ritual, he let out stress and pain, tension and rage.

It was a good place.

He finished and washed himself. Despite his progress in avoiding serious self-harm, his Force power had failed to return in any fashion but his eternal half-cursed Wound Affinity. But he was determined to be more than just a product of his circumstances, he was making progress on that note, too... until that Sith had shown up. And now he felt old rages rekindled, past wounds flared in pain again and he found all the careful meditation and relaxation he had accumulated slip away.

The Sith was unmaking him again, and he had to know why.

Tossing on an old robe, he made his way down to the cells, She did say she would not stop him... oh... but she had posted a guard again.

"Hello..." He sought for a name, anything. This time he had to try and be civil.

"Johanas." the man said, steely gazed.

"Right... How... Are... You?" Ythros said, fists clenching and unclenching. This was not his area of expertise.

"Fine,” said the unhelpful Johanas.

"..."

"..."

The two simply stood, Johanas silent by his personality, Ythros immobilized by his utter failure at all things to do with social convention. In the end Ythros broke, utterly lost in this new and terrifying world of conversational syntax where he couldn't scowl.

"I’m going to see the prisoner,” he said.

"Right,” said the monosyllabic Johanas.

"That’s it?" Ythros almost yelled.

"Yes,” said Johanas, ever the philosopher.

Ythros scowled again after passing him. Nahila had probably put the bastard there just to spite him.

And there she was, immobile as ever....

...And he was lost, he had no idea why he had desired to come here, what curiosity he had hoped to indulge, but for some reason the image of the woman dominated his thoughts, like a song in his head or an ache in his bones...

But for the life of him he had no idea why. He had no desire to harm her he could fulfill, no attraction, only a curiosity. But for what?

She watched him as if he was a new type of wall.

Screw conversation, staring contests were nothing to a man who had once had his eyeballs branded, and he had time to kill.

___________________________________________


The Escapist QoH Crew:

CHAPTER FOUR

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

Qayin (Cain) – assistant director in charge of Emo

Ultrajoe (Ythros) – assistant director in charge of Epic
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