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Old 11-23-2008, 09:31 PM   #1
mshcherbatskaya
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The Old Republic: Queen of Hearts - Chapter 1

She could have been a Czerka regional manager with the way she was dressed, a stylish, black business suit with a long fitted jacket and knee-length skirt, and she wore it to good effect. It showed off her figure without being immodest, and with her upswept black hair, emphasized the marble pallor of her skin. She walked through the entry hall with the perfect ease of a woman accustomed to admiration, which she got even there, in the detached, meditative quiet of the Jedi temple.

"Pardon me," she said to the young man who sat behind a rather official looking desk, "I would like to speak with one of the Jedi Masters, please."

"Um, well, I'm a Jedi," he offered. She gave him a little smile, warm, understanding, faintly amused. "Can I help you?"

"That's very kind but I'm afraid I really must speak with one of the Masters." Her continuing smile was not flirtatious but he blushed anyway.

"Well, I'm not sure if they are available right now. They are awfully busy."

"Oh, that's quite all right. I'll wait." She sat down and crossed her legs. The young man watched her knees slide beneath the hem of her skirt, then looked away.

"May I tell them why you are here, what you want to talk to talk to them about?" His voice cracked, he looked down at the floor, then at her legs, then away across the room, then back to his desk.

"I'm sorry, but no."

They sat in silence for a bit. She watched him look for something to look at, the little smile still on her lips. Finally, she sighed and said, "Perhaps if I show you my credentials...?"

"Um, yes, I mean, maybe I could..."

From her purse she drew out a white mask and a slim red-and-gold Lightsaber. "My name is Darth Erzabet, and I'd like to speak with a Jedi Master now, please."

...

Corev strode up the steps to the Jedi temple, his footsteps echoing through the front courtyard. He approached the front doors and pushed them open to reveal the main room, taking a moment to absorb the peaceful atmosphere. It had been awhile since the last time he had been here but he wasn't there to stare at the scenery.

He approached the main counter where a young Jedi stood.

"Hello Master Jedi, I'm here to see the Master Nahila."

"Do you have an appointment?"

"No, but tell her Corev Saal is here to see her."

"I will, but without an appointment you aren't likely to get in to see her. She has been busy lately."

"I will wait over here while you tell her, then,” he said, and walked away leaving the young Jedi dumbfounded. He leaned against a counter nearby as he waited for the Jedi at the counter to call Nahila, hoping the boy wouldn't wait too long.

Corev looked over towards the entrance of the temple to see a women walking up the steps. Normally he wouldn't have paid much attention to some woman coming to visit the temple, even if she was Force Sensitive, which this one seemed to be. It was a Jedi temple and he was sure a lot of people came to visit them. At first he had assumed her to be a Jedi herself, but something about the way she looked and carried herself showed that she wasn't. As she approached the counter and walked past him he noticed something else different about her. She felt different. He couldn't explain it, but even though she was weak in the Force there was something special about her, he just couldn't place what.

He watched as she talked to the young Jedi at the counter. Watched as he gazed at her with admiration, even adoration. It was as if she was a young lady flirting with him and he was acting like a young boy tripping over himself to please her. There was something very odd about that, about her.

She said something about showing credentials and pulled something out. He stared dumbfounded at the mask and sabre in her hand. She was a Sith and she had just brought herself into a Jedi temple. What her purpose was he did not know but his business with Nahila had just become more urgent.

...

Cain rested his palm over the hilt of his lightsaber, concealed under his robe, but still able to feel the contours, scratches and bumps through the cloth. He was told that this habit was a habit of those who felt nervous or insecure, but Cain was just restless. He already felt as if he had done a hard days work and he'd only been working for an hour, but that was okay. In fact, it was relief. Every ache, every bead of sweat was a reminder that he had a purpose. Sure, that purpose was not as...glamorous as being a 'hero' in the Mandalorian Wars, nor was it as rewarding as his life as a Jedi in this very same Temple. However, no matter how insignificant his work may be now, it was still a goal, a meaning to hold on to when all other meanings had vanished.

Zez-Kai Ell had been a hypocrite, shying away from a war his own teachings demanded be fought, and Revan had been a coward, wasting the lives of his followers so he himself could reap the rewards. As far as Cain was concerned, labour in the Temple where he grew up was a small purpose, but it was not a false purpose.

His hand left the hilt as his reflection ceased - thinking about the past caused him nothing but hurt and regret. He was having enough troubles dealing with the daily fatigue and stress that came with this job, and to add on unnecessary emotional pain was always enough to send him spiraling into a pit of melodramatic despair, which it did as Cain punched randomly at the interface of the console in a momentary lapse of control. He did this daily, at different times, but always at least once, and this was understandable. He was a joke within the Temple. He should have been offered aid and tranquility, but instead he was cast aside, left to rot working a desk in the lobby. A Jedi only in title, Cain was left at that desk as a warning, a reminder of what happened to those who let themselves be 'corrupted', which was ludicrous. Cain had lived, truly lived for the first time in his life in those wars, and instead of being crowned a hero he was abandoned by his 'Master', Revan, and rejected by the Jedi. The Council still maintained the outright lie that no Jedi had paid for their crimes from the wars - a lie that, to them, may as well be fact. A fallen Jedi is no Jedi at all in their eyes, and a fallen Jedi can never truly pay for his 'crimes', so, as another bead of sweat fell from his frustrated brow, Fallen Jedi Cain immaturely sent the console into fits with a series of random commands

His concealed rage would have continued to vent in the form of technology-abuse for a while, as his fatigue and suppressed emotional pain built up in turn, had she not walked into the lobby. She had asked for a Jedi, and had most likely missed the sarcastic tone of the little bastard who'd told her Cain was a 'Jedi.' When he looked up from the computer error and data dump he'd managed to trigger, she stood before him, so self-contained in her beauty. The Force did not flow strongly through this woman, but what did flow through came out...changed.

Afterwards, he swept through the Temple, telling everyone he met of this woman, this Sith, who had simply walked in and handed him her lightsaber and mask, confident that she would be accepted where Cain himself had not.

...

Nahila entered through the bronze doors into the room where Corev Saal stood admiring a picture of some past Jedi.

"Ah Corev, I am so happy to see you, especially today. As you can imagine, things have been a bit...hectic,” she said as she took a seat behind the desk.

He looked at his old friend for a minute before responding. "The Sith seem stronger than anything we could have imagined, so this is unexpected to say the least. I could see why you would be a little busy."

Nahila rested her elbows on her desk and looked at him, "We've lost so many of our own to them, so many who left to join the Sith, and then finally the reverse happens, one Sith abandons their own to join us and I find no comfort in it at all."

He remembered the strange woman he saw when he first entered the temple. One of the weirdest moments in his long life. "Ah, yes the Sith I saw in the lobby. There is something odd about that one."

"Oh indeed there is. What she did is proof enough of that."

"She isn't very strong in the Force. How did she survive among the Sith?"

"That's one of the reasons I kept you waiting so long--I've been finding out as much about her as I possibly can since she arrived.” Nahila picked up a datapad on her desk and frowned at it. “The more I know about her, the stranger she becomes. She has never, so far as I know, fought a single battle against anyone, Sith or Jedi, and yet her following is very large, a planetary base and a small star fleet."

He was shocked and it showed in his face as he moved closer to the desk. "How? The Sith function on battle, they fight for everything. How would she have risen so high without having to fight to get there? That isn't very Sith-like, to say the least."

She sat forward more in her chair and looked at him, "It goes beyond that even. The Sith are very competitive, we know that, every Sith tries to kill the one above them but her followers are loyal to her."

"Loyal is not a word I word use to describe any Sith. That is odd indeed. Do you have any idea how she inspires such loyalty in her followers?" His curiosity was spiked. This could be some sort of technique taught to her. He'd studied the Sith and their methods for a long time, even left the Jedi to do it, and never heard of anything like it.

"Her base stands ready, but no one has stepped forward to claim it. When another Sith Lord tried to take control of it, they defended it in her name! They are waiting for her to return! I have never heard of such a thing!"

He shook his head, "Nor have I."

"Battle Meditation could create such an effect, but not at such a distance, and not for such a long time, nor does she show any signs of having such power."

He thought for a moment about the possibility. "I have seen Battle Meditation work on people. It inspires people to keep fighting, gives them confidence. It also causes your enemies to lose hope. I have never seen it cause such devotion ..."

She shook her head and leaned back in her chair, "I have no explanation for it. Old friend, I have a favor to ask."

He raised his eyebrows, "A favor?"

"If I keep her locked up in solitary confinement with a neural restriction collar on her, I will never find out what she is up to. Eventually, we will need to let her act. She says that she has come to be redeemed, to return to the Light, and perhaps that is true but I have my doubts, as you might well expect."

He shrugged. "I have not heard of a Sith of her standing ever returning to the Light."

She sighed. "And yet these days we accept that even the greatest Jedi fall to the dark. Has this war made such pessimists of us, I wonder? As you said though, she is like no other Sith--perhaps she is telling the truth. I am both more hopeful and more suspicious of her than I have ever been of any potential convert."

He thought on it a moment, thinking back on what he had seen of this Darth Erzebet. "I suppose it is possible that she means what she says, but it is also possible this is some sort of trick."

"Exactly. I will assign one of the Jedi Masters to her, to try to determine why she is here, and to guide her back to the Light if such a thing is possible."

"And what is my part in this?"

"She will not know that you were ever a Jedi. Even I, who was a padawan with you, cannot feel the Force moving in you, though I know that it does, strongly. I want you to be her guard. She will think you have no strength in the Force, so she will either make you her target or she will ignore you. If she is trying some sort of trick, that is. If she is sincere, given her position within the Sith, they will certainly try to kill her. If they do, she will need a bodyguard and again, the Sith will ignore you or strike you first. Either way, the surprise should work to our advantage. Will you do this for me, old friend?" It was true that, in seeking to fully understand both sides of the Force, he had learned to conceal himself from Jedi and Sith alike. When he joined the military, no one knew his was anything other than an ordinary man who happened to be unusually good with a vibroblade.

He smiled at her reassuringly. "Your plan makes sense. I will do it but not just because of the sense it makes, I am also curious to find out how she does what she does. Finding out how she inspires loyalty could be very beneficial." And, he didn't say, very interesting as well.

"Yes, I agree. But do not be too curious. I do not want you to find out first-hand how it is she draws others too her. I know that others have called you disloyal but I know better, I know that--"

"My leaving the Jedi Order was not disloyal, it was my choice." He frowned, looking at her intently. That had always been a sore spot with him, their refusal to acknowledge the value of fully understanding both sides of the Force, and their condemnation of the “arrogant curiosity” that lead to his supposed fall.

"--you have always been a person who thinks for himself," she continued, giving him a reassuring smile, "and I need that in you most of all. Keep your guard up, and keep your distance."

"I understand that caution is needed around her, she is Sith after all. I will be careful."

She smiled in relief. "Good. The Republic has of course been all over me with questions about her, about what she is doing here. Since you have been an officer with the fleet, I will tell them that I have assigned you to her as their liaison."

"Yes, that also eliminates suspicion as to why I would be assigned as her guard and not another Jedi."

"Oh, there will be a Jedi assigned to her as well. He will be both her guard and her teacher, if she is honest in her desire for redemption." She pauses for a moment before continuing, "She does not seem very strong in the Force nor do I feel the Dark Side working strongly within her. The strength of passion I usually find in the Sith is lacking in her. She is serene as any Jedi Master."

"My own ability shows that you should not place all your trust in what you sense."

"That may be the truest thing I have heard said today."

He frowned again, "We can only hope that she is telling the truth and this does not cost the Jedi more then they can spare."

Nahila frowned in agreement. "You are too right--the Jedi cannot spare anything at all. This war has almost destroyed us, and though Revan has gone, still every day costs us more."

As he looked out the window, his frown became more worried. "I fear this war will cost the Jedi everything, but if we play our cards right we may just make it out of this."

The smile returned to her face as his comment brought back memories. "I was always terrible at pazaak, but as I recall, you were an excellent player, so I will leave this particular card in your hands then." She got up out of her chair with a little grunt. She was remarkably fit for her age, but the years were starting to tell. "I'm afraid I must go. There is a Senator waiting to talk to me, or lecture me--you know how they are."

"Indeed I do." He raised one eyebrow in both irritation and amusement.

"He will want to know what I am doing about this. I am glad to be able to tell him that I have assigned both a powerful Jedi and a decorated Republic soldier to the case. He need not know they are one and the same person."

He laughed looking at her, "I am glad I could talk to you again Nahila. It has been a pleasure."

She answered with a laugh of her own, though her laugh was just a little sad. "The pleasure has been all mine, Corev, and someday perhaps we can visit for no other reason than the enjoyment of one another's company. But this day is not that day, so I must go."

"You are right, I will leave you now." He stood to leave, but reluctant to go. It had been such a long time since he had seen her.

"The young man at the desk will show you to her. He's taken quite an interest in her. Only natural under the circumstances, since he was the very first to meet her, but make sure his interest does not...increase, will you?"

"I will watch him as well as the others who are in contact with her."

"Thank you. Good-bye, my friend, I am sure I will speak with you later.

"Good-bye I hope we can talk more at a later date." He turned around and walked out of the room, closing the door behind him.


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


IMPORTANT NOTES:

This story was written as a cooperative group project by members of the Escapist. You could call it an RP, but when you set out to achieve writing that focuses on character and psychology development rather than 'pew!pew!' action, when the characters have backstory rather than weapons and equipment lists, when you encourage people to write rather that just 'play', it starts to turn into something else. It turns into fiction.

...

The Escapist QoH Crew:

CHAPTER ONE

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

mshcherbatskaya has requested a fanfic review for this thread.

Last edited by mshcherbatskaya; 11-23-2008 at 11:23 PM.
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