Who did the Voice belong to and why was Zash’s Apprentice conversing with it? Still sat at the base of the pillar, her back turned to where the discussion was happening, Talitha wiped her clammy hands down the now-dusty robes Lord Vitae’s protocol droid had supplied her. Grasping her curved lightsaber hilt in her favoured left hand she lifted her head and tried to listen into the curious meeting taking place just down the passageway.
“The relic you sought lies here. But be careful, I do not know what it does. Just know that it is powerful.”, Kallig’s Voice instructed.
“If it is powerful, then that’s all I need know,” a young female voice replied.
“You do not know what your Master intends these relics for, child? She sent you in here, knowing other Apprentices came down this very passageway and died. If I had not recognised you as of my bloodline, you would also have died. Are you so ignorant?”, the Spirit retorted
“Zash says it will make me more powerful and she’s doing this for me.” the girl’s voice replied, not sounding terribly convinced at the words she was speaking.
“Yet your hesitation gives you away, daughter. Do not be a fool. Zash visited me multiple times but learned nothing. No Sith rises easily to the Dark Council by making their apprentices stronger than they are. Think.”
Talitha slowly forced herself to stand, her Lekku twitching nervously. When was the right time to leave?
“I have to take this relic to my Master regardless of the consequences.” the Zabrak stated more firmly.
“Yes you do, child. But keep your eyes and mind open to the games some Sith play. I must depart to conserve my energy, but we will meet again.”
And with that the pressure the Twi’lek could sense in the air lifted, leading her to assume Kallig’s Spirit had departed. For now, at any rate. She was about to bend down and retrieve her satchel to facilitate a quiet exit when her senses suddenly heightened. Peering carefully around the pillar, she realised she couldn’t see anything…or anyone.
But she’s very near…, she realised almost too late.
A slight knock of what sounded like metal on stone and Talitha ignited her turquoise blade just in time for the Zabrak’s purple blade to appear right in front of her eyes, very nearly dazzling her. The stone pillar, which had been a shelter from danger now became a prison. Drawing what reserves of strength she could find she pushed her opponents blade to her left and spun adeptly to the right, keeping her Lightsaber between herself and Zash’s Apprentice.
“Why are you sneaking around down here?”, the Assassin hissed pointing one end of her Saberstaff towards Talitha.
“My Master sent me in here. I am permitted to be here.” the Twi’lek responded firmly, her gaze not leaving the weapon in the Zabrak’s hand.
“Yes but why? That was what I asked.”
A moment’s pause – a battle of wills – a chance to take a breath.
Talitha shifted her gaze to look into the deep orange eyes of an Apprentice with a very suspicious Master. She thought she recognised this girl from Korriban, but even then she couldn’t find the name. Momentarily distracted, the Assassin vanished out of sight and the purple light disappeared. Pressure mounted inside Talitha’s mind and she whirled around trying to sense, or hear anything. The girl was here, somewhere.
This silence is unnerving! she screamed from inside her head.
Just when she thought she could make an escape, lightening shot towards her head and the Zabrak appeared once more laughing insidiously. Squealing at the near miss, the Twi’lek ducked out the way as pieces of rock fell from part of the wall above her head.
“No rules here. People die here all the time. Give me one good reason why you shouldn’t be the next?”
And with that the Assassin ran at her with unnatural speed. The Twi’lek had just enough time jump and use the Force to push the Zabrak a few arms’ lengths away. And with that she vanished again. Talitha’s eyes darted to and fro, her Lekku’s nervous twitching intensified. But she was aware that her head hurt more to her right so jumped and parried the re-ignited Saberstaff once more.
“I will wear you out long before I get tired, weak Twi’lek. I only need to move at half your speed to keep up.”, the Zabrak taunted.
Her blade swung towards her head, which Talitha barely avoided. She only just managed to deflect the lowered half the blade coming back up towards her left arm and was forced into spinning round on her left foot. Out of nowhere hot pain seared up her back and she cried out, another hideous call in the haunted temple. She fell forwards, her vision suddenly blurring, her head feeling like it was spinning. She fell and rolled her back to the cold stone floor.
I can’t…think. Someone save me. I can’t push this pain away!
The dark-robed Zabrak stood over her as a hunter over its prey. She was about to deal the killing blow when a mechanical beeping distracted her. Talitha was struggling to breathe through the pain. She couldn’t focus long enough to heal herself.
“Have you got it, Apprentice?” she heard a voice ask.
“What do you think?” the Zabrak retorted.
“Wonderful, marvellous! Get back here at once, we must get to work quickly.”
“I was followed here, but I took her out.” the Apprentice reported coldly
“Don’t waste precious energy on silly squabbles. What is it to you if they live or die? Leave them, we have much to do in so little time.”
“Fine.” the Zabrak responded, shutting down the comm device.
She turned back to the gasping Twi’lek on the floor.
“Looks like I don’t get to kill you. This time. But do not cross me again.”
And at that, Talitha lost consciousness.
“She’s coming round,” a gruff but kindly voice stated.
Talitha tried to rub her eyes, but her back pain made her scream out loud and she collapsed back onto the couch.
“Easy, easy,” the voice repeated, “You’re among friends and a real healer is on the way.”
As her vision slowly returned she made out what seemed to be a male Cathar hunched over her.
“Who… are you? Where’s my Master? Argh! I need water.” she spluttered through winces of pain.
“I’m Myrt’n and I found you in the Dark Temple. I protected you as much as I could, but I’m just an apprentice as well.” he smiled laying a hand on her forehead, “Just lay still, it feels like you’re burning up.”
“I didn’t have time to…protect, or…heal myself.”
“I know. I saw flashes of turquoise and purple down the passage way and arrived too late. The other Sith was storming out as I got there.” he explained
He was interrupted by the arrival of a medical droid who immediately injected pain-relieving medication into her arm. And another face appeared over hers, one she did not recognise.
“You do not need to know who I am,” the male human Life-binder said, “But both you and Darth Zash’s Apprentice were authorised to be in the Dark Temple. It should not have come to blows. Neither was any wrong committed. But you survived, so we protect our own. Let me help you.”
The medication got to work almost immediately and the Twi’lek fell asleep again.
When she came around again she was in her own room, with clean, soft bedding around her. Lord Vitae was pacing the room but as soon as she heard Talitha stir she turned and smiled kindly at her Apprentice, before taking a seat next to the Twi’lek’s bed.
Gingerly, Talitha eased herself into a sitting position, pulling her sheets over her shoulders. There was a dull ache down her back, but no crippling pain.
“You talk in your sleep, Apprentice!” Lord Vitae smiled
“Did I say anything useful?”, Talitha mumbled, her mind still very foggy from medications and enforced sleep.
“Once you stopped rambling about bread, meats and wanting to get out of there, yes I learned a few things. Good job you were brought here for treatment and not a generic Imperial medical wing.”
“How am I alive?”
“Myrt’n, who you briefly met, intervened. Apparently at the same time as Zash was communicating with her apprentice. He carried you out and called for an emergency transport. You are both remarkably brave.”
“How long was I out?”, Talitha asked, trying to force her mind to work again.
“Three days, give or take. And before you tell me we need to hurry, we don’t. You need to get better.”
“Dromund Kaas does not seem to be the place where I get better. I’m already tired of being injured or nearly killed.” Talitha said bitterly.
Lord Vitae blinked and stared up at the ceiling.
“I am sorry, Talitha. You should not have been sent in there alone. I underestimated how ready you were.”
“Her quick disappearing and reappearing acts denied me time needed to defend and heal myself.” Talitha explained, “I just felt so, weak, in the face of unrelenting hatred!”
Blinking back tears, she turned her head carefully to look at her master.
“How can the Empire succeed when Sith turn on Sith even at Apprentice level? Does it take hatred to fight hatred?”
Vitae took a breath
“I know why you’re asking this. It’s your first real temptation, so be careful. I would also suggest we discuss this when we are clear of Dromund Kaas airspace tomorrow. You’ll find thinking easier then.”
“We’re leaving Dromund Kaas?” Talitha frowned in surprised.
Her Master nodded.
“Your training will have to continue, how do I say this, in the field. Matters are moving swifter than I anticipated so we must follow.”
“But you said I have to get better. How can I do that if I need to work?”, Talitha asked, a look of confusion crossing her face.
“I said matters were moving more swiftly, not too swiftly. And you will get better first.”
“So, where are we going tomorrow?” the Twi’lek asked.
Lord Vitae smirked and stood up to leave the room.
“I will tell you that tomorrow, also outside of Dromund Kaas airspace.”
“You know I hate secrets!” Talitha protested.
“Yes, I know.” Vitae winked and left the chambre, leaving Talitha alone with her thoughts.