Talitha half-walked, half-stumbled into the Sith Sanctum in Kaas City. She could have taken the speeder from the Unfinished Colossus, but had needed time to think. To breathe. To just be. Now as her energy was spent, she realised that may have been a mistake. Her shoulder still hurt from the slave’s blaster bolt, but not as much as the previous day. Grateful to get into the cold, stone structure housing various Sith Lords and their Apprentices, and out of the storm, she leant against one of the handrails while her eyes adjusted to her dimmer surroundings.
“I need food. And sleep.”, she whispered to herself. “And to catch a break.”
The other Sith milling around the Sanctum all blurred into one meaningless mush in front of her eyes. She should have slept before returning to Kaas City, but felt time was of the essence.
Realising just how cold she was in her damp robes, she shivvered violently.
I’d better get moving before I collapse., she thought.
Feeding the Body Before the Spirit
Entering Lord Vitae’s office, she was relieved to see that her Master was waiting.
“Well you’ve looked better Apprentice,” Lord Vitae smiled. Talitha managed to return the smile, albeit weakly.
“Yeah, I’ve definitely felt better. Any food around here?”
“No, but I can get a droid to send some up.”, her Master responded.
The dark-skinned Master pushed a few buttons on her datapad, giving some extra instructions to the droids, before transmitting the order.
Talitha herself struggled over to Lord Vitae’s desk and pulled up a chair, wearily pulling her own datapad out of its satchel and pushing it towards her Master.
“I trust you haven’t synchronised this with the databases here yet?” Her master checked.
“I’ve not eaten much these last few days, transferring data was hardly in my top three priorities,” the Twi’lek managed to reply, aware of the accidental disrespectful tone her voice possessed.
Lord Vitae nodded and glanced down the datapad entries her Apprentice had recorded. As she was reading, a Protocol Droid wandered in, pushing a small trolley. As tired as she was, the Twi’lek could not help but yearn for the amazing smells coming from the top layer of the trolley.
“Hot food and drinks as requests my Lord,” the droid droned, “and your other parcels are below. Please communicate when you require me to clean up.”
Lord Vitae glanced up, “Thank you, C2-D9, I will”
And with that the droid left.
“Talitha, what are you waiting for?”, her Master asked. “You can’t feed your spirit, or serve the Empire, if you don’t feed your body and look after yourself first.”
The Twi’lek was snapped out of her blank thoughts and empty expressions and lifted up the lids of the various meats and breads provided. Cutting huge chunks off both she bit into her dinner, aware of how inelegantly she was eating.
Where Paths Cross
“Alright apprentice. I’ve crossed-checked your data with my own research. We can’t discuss details in this…place, however it appears that somehow we are looking at a link between Tulak Hord and Lord Kallig. That makes sense, to a degree. Some rather foolish Sith awoke some of the spirits in the Dark Temple, Lord Kallig’s included. Any Imperials or Sith caught in the Dark Temple at that time are presumed missing, dead, or insane.”, her Master explained.
Talitha wiped the meat juices from her mouth with her sleeve, thinking that another stain on her usually pristine white clothes would make no difference.
“Let me guess, I have to go in there?”, she asked, already knowing the answer.
“We need to know what Darth Zash and her Apprentice are after. When Sith go off and secretively do their own thing, there’s a good chance it’s not in the Empire’s best interests. So, yes.”
“What do we know about Zash’s Apprentice? Beyond what the Dashade told me, which, to be honest was very little. He was unusually obsessed about his dead Master”
“Dashades are bound by loyalty, if not honour, if defeated and enslaved. So I’m not surprised by that”, her Master explained, “As for Darth Zash’s Apprentice. She’s a young Zabrak Assassin, adept in hiding herself in the Force, and deadly with a double-bladed Lightsaber. Remarkably powerful for her age and station. And she has chosen to ‘lose’ her name.”, Lord Vitae said slowly, her brow furrowing.
“Why would she do that?”, Talitha asked inquisitively.
Lord Vitae shrugged, “Some Sith aspire to a title, say, Darth Nox. They don’t need their names so long as their power is feared. Without a name, and mastering stealth, anonymity serves the Assassin well.”
Cupping her hands around a container of hot stimcaf, Talitha was beginning to feel more herself with the food warming her body.
“So let me get this straight. I need to go into the Dark Temple, face the madness within and track an awakened Sith spirit. All the while, trying to find, or avoid, an invisible Assassin who won’t likely appreciate my presence, to figure out what a Darth is doing messing with the legacy of this Tulak Hord?” the Twi’lek wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry at that list.
Her dark-skinned Master sat back in her high-back chair and chose her reaction: a fully-fledged, beaming laugh that took Talitha by surprise.
“You forgot the bit about hoping not to be eaten by the Dashade!”, she managed through her laughter.
Talitha gave up resisting and joined in. After a few minutes of desperately needed light relief, Lord Vitae reached for some food and drink for herself.
The Promise of Respite
Silence descended on the room, broken only by crunching of food and slurping of hot beverages, both Sith deep in thought.
“Remember Talitha,” her Master carefully and quietly cautioned, “your skills are in healing and gradually wearing your opponent down. But you may need to work out how to move slightly quieter on the stone floor of the Temple”
Talitha nodded. She knew she had to face the madness, but still didn’t know why.
“Tomorrow you will venture to the Dark Temple. You need a change of clothes, a long, hot shower and a decent night’s sleep. I have a spare bunk here in my chambres, my heated chambres, please use it.”, her Master smiled.
Again Talitha just nodded, the exhaustion washing over her like a rushing wave.
“And when you return,” Lord Vitae concluded, reaching for the other packages on the trolley, “I have a surprise for you. The Dark Temple will not be a pleasant excursion for you and these,” she said placing her hands on the unopened packages, “will be how you recover from your ordeal in there.”
And with that, her Master stood, picked up the packages and headed to her own quarters. The Twi’lek’s curiosity was aroused, but not for long. Dragging herself to her feet, she headed to the spare bunk room and, locking herself in, she fell on it, fully-clothed and fell immediately asleep.