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The rising sunlight made its way over the horizon, the fire of the sky illuminating a now clear sky. This signalled a scorching day on Korriban, in complete contrast to the desert storm of the day before.
Talitha’koum stirred on her hard bed, her uneasy night brought to an end. She dragged herself into a sitting position and allowed the rays of light to wash over her tired eyes. Today was make-or-break day for the Acolyte. She did her best to dispel the multiple nightmares of the previous eight hours, depicting the various ways her opponents could destroy her today.
Getting out of the bed, she shuffled her way to the basic washroom adjacent to her quarters and splashed handful after handful of cold water on her face and Lekku. Looking into the mirror at her darkened eyes she repeated her daily mantra.
“Survive. I just have to survive.”
She changed from her night-time wear into some loose-fitting light brown robes. Underneath, she had a basic protection against energy weapons covering her vital organs. Once satisfied she made her way to the locker and pulled out her Vibroblade.
“I cannot wait to exchange this for a Lightsaber. Even a Sith Warblade would do compared to this. At least we should all be on a level playing field.”
Knowing she had to meet with the Sith Master in under an hour she took the Vibroblade apart, cleaned all the components and carefully pieced it back together.
Amazing what you learn to do when you’re a slave, she mused.
She sat cross-legged on the floor, the deactivated blade across her knees, and closed her eyes. The sun appeared to illuminate her soft, yellow-skinned face and the Force offered a temporary respite before the agony which was to come. It was the stirring of one of her rivals from a couple of rooms away that brought her to her senses. She slowly, carefully stood and hooked the blade behind her back before also heading to the briefing room.
Darth Tykrus surveyed the Acolytes in front of him. One or two human, which was the only sight glimmer of hope he could see in this useless bunch of wretches. The Dark Council had ordered mass conscription to the Academy to produce the numbers needed to fight a war. The result of this were more deaths on Korriban and even a few successes. But mostly it led to Adepts who could use the Force but had no loyalty to the Empire.
“Today you see your four rivals for the day’s trial. Today you have no partners, accomplices or friends. One of you will succeed in today’s trial. The rest will die trying.”
An uneasy silence.
“I have carefully placed a finely crafted Sith Warblade in the Tomb of Ragnos. There is only one. It is guarded from scavengers by one of our Sith Lords but do not speak to him. The Tomb is filled with darkness, madness and the harshest of Korriban’s native beasts. You must slay many of these to even get close to the warblade. They are fierce, but their ferocity will be nothing compared to mine, if you return here without the Blade. Do you understand?”
A few mumbled hesitant ‘yes Master’s. One Acolyte, a tall Rattataki, had his arms crossed and looked at his four new enemies with distain.
“The beasts shall be slain, Master Tykrus, as will these hopeless creatures here you deign to call Acolytes”
The Sith Master’s masked head turned in his direction.
“I hope your results live up to your ego, slave. You don’t want to see that bubble burst, now do you?”, a slightly threatening tone could be detected in his voice.
He turned back to addressing the whole group.
“The rules of the Academy apply right up until you get to the Tomb. After that, there is one rule – retrieve the Warblade. It will take great fear, strength and power to kill your contenders. But kill them you will. Now begone – I don’t want to see your pathetic faces until you return with the Warblade.”
And on that note, he turned on his heels, heading to the Archive Library. The Acolytes looked at each other and a few turned to leave, to take different routes to the Tomb. The Rattataki turned to Talitha
“I’m going to enjoy killing you,” he said waving his Vibrosword towards her face, “I never trust the quiet ones.”
“As Master Tykrus said – I hope you can live up to your own words. It would be very embarrassing for a Warrior to lose to a Biochemist in a straight fight.”, she prodded him, smiling slightly.
“Don’t push your luck, little girl.”
He almost made as if to swipe his blade at her face, but thought better of it. Giving her one last, piercing glower, he stormed out after his prey. Talitha took a big breath and tried to recall the routes to the Tomb. She knew, she didn’t have to be the first to arrive, but she had to be the first one to leave it. Considering the various rocky routes she could take, she strode purposefully out of the Academy, diverted away from the main outdoor training area and began her uneasy journey towards the den of death.
Two hours later…
She put her fingers up to her temple and felt blood. The last Tukata had been in a ravenous mood and, despite being impaled by her blade had attempted to bite at her head in its last gasp for survival. She had almost survived without incident but as it fell a couple of its teeth had scratched her down the side of her head.
Her head was pounding, but she had to stop the blood flow. Crouching behind some crates she briefly shut her eyes to be able to close the wound. Once satisfied the bleeding had, at least, stopped she glanced around and stood up, only to briefly miss a raft of Force Lightening flash right before her eyes. Falling back behind the crates she scanned the chamber she found herself in she checked her surroundings again and spotted a shadow making its way across the chamber. A few small rocks fell from the wall where the Lightening had struck and the shadow turned around to check where the sound had come from.
Sensing her moment, she leapt out and swiped her blade across the back of the assailant’s legs, causing him to fall forwards. Taking a deep breath she called on the Force to push him away from her and she fell to one knee facing her opponent.
“No, it can’t be the Twi’lek,” the humanoid protested, “I’m better than you.”
Struggling to regain composure he knelt upright and began holding his hands towards her. Sensing what was coming, she put up a Force Defence and held her breath.
Her enemy launched a vicious Force Storm which threatened to knock her off her feet. Some of the Lightening pierced her defence, racking her body with pain. She tried to focus her attention from the pain, her new skills requiring every last drop of her mental energy. Seeing he was not going to win this way, he took a breath to change tactic, but that was all Talitha’koum needed, with her Sword in her left hand she raised her right and tried to recall a mind-crushing trick from Sorcery class. He fell to the floor, clutching his head in agony, his breath coming in shorter and shorter bursts, until it was no more.
Talitha fell to her knees, feeling dizzy.
I’m supposed to be a healer, not a destroyer.
She went over to where his body lay and rolled him over, his face permanently contorted from the pain of death. She glanced down and saw his Sword.
“Looks a lot newer than mine.”, she noticed.
Taking it and checking it was still in working order, she replaced hers with his and broke her old one across her knees.
“Can’t be doing with anyone finding this.”
Tossing the pieces aside she ran into the next chamber, in time to see two of her rivals running deeper into the Tomb. Frowning, she glanced around and saw the remains of a human slave, one of the other Acolytes, lying crushed under a huge pile of masonry. She looked up and saw a corresponding hole in the ceiling.
Hmm. An enemy who can use Telekinesis against me. Interesting.
She unsheathed her looted sword and ran in the same direction as the remaining, surviving, students.
“Ulthius, help me!” came a cry from the remaining human Acolyte
Talitha’koum raced into a room which seemed to be an armoury. Following the noise she saw that the humans voice was coming from inside a tightly-knit circle of K’lor’slugs, hacking, beating and biting away at the voice’s owner.
The Rattataki was leaned up a doorframe, grinning evilly.
“Nothing like a bit of pheromones stolen from the labs to make you smell like K’lor’slug dinner. See you later.”, he commentated lazily.
“But…I helped…you find…the armoury…!”, came the voice.
“There is no trust, there is division, you fool!”
Feeling a deep seated disgust, Talitha leaped at the K’lor’slugs, slashing with all her strength. A few fell, but one caught her off-guard and tripped her over their tail. Winded from the fall, she almost lost consciousness before a blade appeared out of the stomach last remaining creature. With a terrifying roar its body was put into spasm before toppling to one side.
The Twi’lek let her head fall to the floor, but not before seeing the horrifying sight of the half eaten human. Clearly losing blood, his condition was far beyond her rudimentary healing skills. He seemed to smile
“Avenge Ulthius for me…he… has…no…honour.”
And with that he collapsed, his head cracking on the base of one of the pillars, spewing more blood over the stonework.
Great, more fuel for nightmares.
Suddenly she heard a cackling from the room adjacent and she snapped herself back into full consciousness. The Rattataki nearly had the warblade and with it, the trial.
She leapt to her feet, fixing her eyes anywhere else other than the stinking pile of slug and human flesh.
Entering the final chamber she noted there were no other exits, and she was stood in the only one. The chamber was almost perfectly circular. In the centre stood the promised Sith Lord, behind which was a half statute of a man, proffering the Warblade. Seeing her enter the chamber, Ulthius unsheathed one Vibroblade and then a shorter version, flicking them both on. The buzzing seemed to echo around the chamber.
“So you made it this far, Talitha. But this is the nearest you will get to being Sith.”
The Twi’lek was just taking in the scene. They hadn’t been trained to dual wield, making this fight against rules. Only rules didn’t apply down here.
She took off the outer layer of her garments, leaving her protected torso and loose trousers on, which gave her more manoeuvrability.
“You presume too much, Ulthius.” she stated quietly.
“Maybe, but I know the Masters despise you. I am darkness and I will destroy you.”, he adjusted his stance.
Talitha flicked her blade on and prepared herself.
“Well let’s see if you can back that claim up then, shall we?”
He curled his lips in a snarl, drew on the Force to increase his speed and leapt at her with both blades.
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