Part 1: Mind Games
The group on the Imperial transport was small. And not very talkative, Talitha’koum noticed. The air was uneasy – not only were they the few not to choose the traditional red Lightsaber blade, but they also weren’t the usual aggressive Sith that favoured slaughtering their fellow students to prove a point. A few Acolytes were sleeping, and a few more had their heads bent over datapads checking over information about Ilum’s crystal deposits. The Twi’lek had done that homework already. She hadn’t intended to, but as this trip had a dual purpose – finding some rare plants to help with stims and medical salves for Lifebinding, and her requirement to beat the elements to obtain her Lightsaber crystal, she had be prepared.
Rala-Khan stared blankly out of a small window at the swirling blue of hyperspace. Usually talkative, the human seemed oddly silent. Their eyes met briefly before Talitha averted her gaze. She couldn’t afford to give herself away, when passing her trials was finally within her grasp.
In her satchel lay a Lightsaber hilt and some of the necessary components to turn it into a working Lightsaber. Not all of the pieces, because Masters cannot be seen to give favouritism. But her meeting with Lord Vitae had yielded a slightly curved hilt, with some elegant engravings carved into it. Other Acolytes had begged, borrowed or…in some cases, stolen these components. Others had simply killed other Acolytes outside the Academy…and where there were no witnesses. Unfortunately for them, the Overseers had caught on and disassembled the stolen weapons so as to give no Acolyte a shortcut.
Her thoughts were suddenly interrupted by her fellow Acolyte:
“Tal, can I ask you something?”, Rala-Khan asked.
“Ask away”, the Twi’lek replied.
“Why did you choose natural crystals over Force-created ones?”, Rala enquired.
“The Force is living isn’t it?”, Tal pointed out.
“Yeah, so what?”
“Well, whether manufactured by a Sith’s use of the Force, or by the Force itself, both are made by the same Force”
“True, but that doesn’t answer my question”, Rala pushed
“No. I suppose not. I also need some plants from Ilum, if you remember our conversation in the library. And red’s not my colour. And fighting endlessly isn’t my idea of fun.”
You’re still hiding something, Tal., the Warrior thought.
“What about you?”, Talitha asked.
“I needed out of Korriban. And most other warriors, the male ones in particular think with their swords and not their brains. This offered me some freedom to be myself”.
And you’re not being totally truthful either Rala, Talitha mused.
In truth, Rala wanted to get to the heart of this quiet Twi’lek. Something was amiss, and she wanted to be there when it all spilled over into the wider galaxy. Their mental games were brought to an abrupts halt by the holo-annoucement droid.
“All Sith, regardless of rank, must begin preparing for landing on Ilum. Cold weather stims and protective clothing is highly advised. Ilum claims the lives of Force Sensitives every year who think themselves immune to cold. We will be dropping out of hyperspace within the hour. BK-R8 Signing Off”.
Talitha took a deep breath, stood and made her way to the equipment lockers.
Part 2: The Path of the Jedi
It was night time when the shuttle landed at the makeshift Imperial Camp. Not that the sun rose very high or for very long, if Talitha’s memory served her well. A shield generator protected the camp, which just looked like a hunting expedition.
I guess that’s what it is for me, at least the Twi’lek mused.
Rumour was the Empire was planning a full assault here within a few years. That would make it a double win against the Republic; cutting off the Jedi’s supply of Adegan Crystals for their Padawans and some upgrades for the Imperial Fleet depended on these crystals. At least that’s what she overheard a few Sith Lords discussing during the journey here.
Once the shuttle’s hatch was opened, she stretched her legs and stepped out, taking a deep breath of the icy air. The Force was strong here and it seemed to envelop her as much as the cold weather jacket she was currently sporting. The night sky was clear, allowing the moon and stars to reflect on the snow-covered peaks and glistening frozen lakes. A stark contrast to the desert-like experience of Korriban.
BK-R8 also disembarked and summoned the small group of Sith to himself.
“My Master has said there will be no debrief. You have no more than three days to retrieve your crystal, or crystals. Republic communications indicate a possible arrival of Jedi Masters and Younglings arriving for their Gathering. It is advised you avoid them. The Empire has not authorised overt assaults on Jedi forces at this time as doing so will jeopardise future Imperial operations. You may return to this camp as often as you wish, but the Crystal Caves will take time to navigate. I must return to the shuttle before my sensors freeze. Please direct all queries to one of your Overseers.”
And with that the droid returned to the heat-controlled comfort of the shuttle. Talitha glanced at Rala, who returned her look.
“If my understanding is correct, we follow a similar path to the Jedi who do the Gathering. Let the Force lead you to your crystal.”, Rala said.
“The Force isn’t biassed. Allowing us to find the right crystal for our weapon isn’t a Jedi trait. We Sith just rarely use the technique,” The Twi’lek pointed out.
“Fair point,” Rala continued, “As I have two crystals to find, possibly four so I have replacements, I should get moving.”
Tal just nodded.
“Good luck. The Force grant you strenth.”, Talitha bowed slightly which was returned.
“Don’t freeze to death girl, I don’t want to be the odd one out at the Academy.”
And with that Rala went into one of the tents to prepare her journey. Talitha entered the command bunker, where she hoped to find the nearest thing to a map in the databanks. Rala was right really – they would be following the path of the Jedi. She wasn’t sure whether that filled her with hope of finding like-minded people, or dread in having to battle a Jedi Master simply to construct her Lightsaber. Only time would tell, she decided, and they only had three days to navigate this new, unknown and hostile world.
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