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Darth Verrin    2,081

(Melona 15, 3630)

 

It was a time of peace and quiet, which if one is a Sith, one knows to be a lie. But there was no denying the peace-like feeling that had descended upon the Academy. Oh sure, there were still students practicing their arts - whether they were martial, mental, or otherwise. Academics still hit the Library with some gusto, and the more physical types still hacked apart training droids - and sometimes each other. But by and large, there was little going on that was extraordinary - at least, not that was seen by the ever-watchful eyes of the Academy Overseers.  And certainly, they were reporting nothing to the Academy's Head Overseer, Darth Verrin.

 

Verrin had his own projects and research to attend to. His former apprentice turned peer, Darth Tanit wanted to craft a unique Sith weapon.  She'd approached him regarding that task, even after learning the arts of Sith Alchemy herself. Perhaps she wasn't confident in her own abilities, or perhaps she wasn't ready to pay the price for the power. But more likely, she was working to acquire the ingredients that would go into the physical blade.  Verrin's job was to find the non-physical ingredients - the sorcery of the procedure, the Force-reliant techniques, and perhaps most importantly - the safeguards to protect him from Tanit, should they either fail to craft her desires, or worse - succeed in the crafting, only to have her 'try it out' upon him.

 

He'd already delved through every tome the Library possessed on the matter. He'd already crafted a few items himself. He'd already consulted the holocron of Bo Vanda once more, looking for loopholes and potential mistakes to be avoided. He'd even consulted XoXann's 'cron again - though the spirit within it still despised him for keeping her. One day, he knew, she would find a way out of the Library and into the galaxy once more.  But that day wasn't here... yet.

 

He was running out of ideas. He knew that he and Tanit could both craft the weapon she wanted. He knew what it would take, how long, and the costs. That was all mundane, and mechanical, even though a good portion of it was manipulation of the Force. So now he was simply looking for the holes - the gaps between the points of interest - the places where things could go terribly, terribly wrong.

 

Verrin had made that mistake once before in his life, and that memory led him to enter the holocron vault once more. There, he passed by Bo Vanda, and XoXann, he walked past others, and finally arrived at a plain-looking pedestal.  Upon the pillar sat a holocron - this one was empty, and dead. But it had once housed the Dark Spirit known simply as Eris.

 

Eris was the stuff of nightmare - the un-living embodiment of the Dark Side. She was a spirit who had haunted him since his first year among the Sith, once he'd woken to the fact that there was a Force, at all - and more particularly, the Dark Side of it. She had tempted and taunted him, year after year, and many Sith simply thought Verrin had gone insane, because the spirit only showed herself to him.  They were wrong, of course, and some select Sith learned that lesson the hard way. Every couple of years, the planets and systems of the galaxy came into some kind of alignment, and the veil between the Dark Side and the 'living world' weakened - allowing Eris to step through.  She struck hard, time and again, until one year, Verrin grew powerful enough, smart enough, and resilient enough... to trap her within this very holocron.

 

It didn't stop there though. He'd gone further. He sought the power of life beyond death for his daughter who had been kidnapped as a child by the Sith, and then slain in young-adulthood by Jedi. He wanted to bring her back from the Force - to obtain her spirit there, and put it back in her body here. He'd preserved her corpse for years, preparing, finding ways to do what he needed to - and then he figured it all out.

 

The ritual required immense power - more than he possessed, certainly. He spent a couple of years having one of his apprentices - Cimoreine - prepare the corpse of his daughter with ritual markings through the use of a tattoo-gun. That gun had needles that he had crafted with the same Sith Alchemy he intended to use for Tanit. And his apprentice had a bizarre connection to the Dark Side, able to tattoo her prophetic visions into flesh. Once the corpse was ready, he'd had his apprentice do the same to him - preparing his body to be a vessel, a living holocron, to hold the spirit of Eris. Eris would be his power source. But once he transferred her from her 'cron into himself, he learned that she needed a font of power herself - to tap into the direct flow of the Dark Side.

 

He'd taken himself, and his daughter's body, to Nogatan - beneath the Library there, and into the source of Dark Side power there that was known simply as 'the Maw'. And there, his mind 'saw' things in the Force - frightening things - huge, tentacled monsters whose footfalls would have crushed buildings - nay, blocks of buildings. But Eris had bolstered him, allowing him avoid becoming a babbling fool, before his brain melted to mush and he became part of the very substance he was trying to tap into. He went on to draw his ritual circle, he'd placed his daughter within it, and then he and Eris had begun.

 

Their chanting attracted the attention of one of the Maw's denizens - a Dark Side abomination that could only be described as an amalgam of body parts. It possessed hundreds of mouths, and just as many eyes and ears.  It lashed out at them, but could not break the protective barrier of the circle. So it broke a piece of the ceiling away, and Verrin had to dodge the falling debris to survive. He did, but once outside the protection, the monster had slammed him with a terrible appendage, knocking him into a wall. 

 

And that... that was where the 'hole' or 'gap' in Verrin's plan revealed itself. He had protected himself from Eris by making his own body a ritual holocron. He hadn't accounted for the fact that by being struck, the ritual markings on his flesh could be broken - and Eris could escape his hold. She freed herself from him, entering his daughter's body, and in the end, he'd been forced to kill the very vessel he'd saved.

 

Nobody witnessed that event - except Eris, of course - but Verrin had returned from that trip a changed man. He'd grown distant and angry, and it took many weeks before he could fully return to his duties. He didn't want to make that mistake again - the simple failure to see where so many things could go wrong. 

 

Some time later, Verrin was back in his office, the memory of his own failure as sharp in his mind as the weeks that had followed it. He would be ready this time.  This time would be different.

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Darth Verrin    2,081

Report after failed report went across Verrin's desk. In the first one, he read that his apprentice, @Holle, had failed to subjugate the natives in Sector A-7. That was where the Empire was supposed to begin the subjugation of the planet, nevermind the tribes people who lived there. More importantly, his precious coffee beans could be grown in that region of this forsaken jungle world - and that lack of coffee probably wasn't helping Verrin's overall mood. His apprentice reportedly took young, aspiring Sith with her, but they too had failed to report any successes. Verrin growled in his desk chair.

 

The next report was no better. The Sith hopeful, @Sutem Wry had gone missing. Something sparked in Verrin's mind - a memory - and he cross-referenced it with the report on Sector A-7.  Sure enough, he found her mentioned there, having accompanied his apprentice.  Verrin's apprentice, Holle, again... still the same problem though, that damnable sector. Maybe the pair had been killed by the natives.  Or maybe, they'd fallen prey to something in the jungle. He might have to send a recovery team in to find out - assuming there were any parts of them left to find. He grimaced and moved on to the next report.

 

It referenced the Sith Acolyte, @Silas Kitsuchi. He was supposed to be serving his 'punishment', providing services to his feminine peers and masters. There was nothing about him going missing, or failing in his duties, but neither was there any evidence that he hadn't fled the Academy instead of putting himself through a few weeks of pain and suffering. Verrin rolled his eyes. If handing out towels to sweaty Sith was so demeaning, the boy would never rise to power among the Sith. Kissing the arses of men and women above one's station was part of the process. One ingratiated themselves to a master in order to earn that master's protection from peers, and then eventually, one either killed their protector or moved out from under them to another higher up the 'food chain'. Come to think of it, Verrin recalled that Holle had stepped in to see to the boy's punishment, personally.  That memory caused Verrin to grimace even more. There seemed to be a common theme going on in all of these reports, and it was directly related to one of his apprentices. If THAT was true, then he had to consider that she might purposefully be failing him - her poor performance was certainly doing nothing to make him look good in the eyes of the Sith'ari, @Darth Atrox, or his peers, @Darth Tanit, or @Darth Sanguira. He growled even deeper in his throat. "Apprentice..."

 

For that matter, his other active apprentice, @Vanessa Sallin, was also largely missing-in-action. The last he knew, she was going to study her father's holocron. She might still be doing that - sometimes it took a while to process that much information, though part of the problem might be that she didn't want to know certain things about her heritage. He thought he sensed her now and again - one of the 'faceless', masked Guardians who roamed the Library, or saw to his personal protection. But even if he did, she didn't break character long enough to interact directly with him.

 

@Darth Renatus was absent too. She had gone missing shortly after arriving back at the Academy. He'd hoped to work more with her, but perhaps she had her own matters to attend to. While there was technically no 'Sphere of Mysteries' left for her to oversee, she might still have had ongoing projects that were occupying her time. Verrin grimaced again - none of the reports showed anything good, nothing of promise. He was fairly sure that Darth Atrox was going to have him cast out as the Academy's Overseer based on poor performance. The question was whether he would be cast out solely as Overseer, or also as Librarian... or eliminated altogether.

 

In a sudden fit of annoyance, Verrin hurled his datapad against the wall of his office. It was fairly resilient, as if it too was somehow denying him satisfaction by not breaking in to a thousand pieces. "It's the lack of coffee..." Verrin was sure, and voiced as much to the room.

 

Normally, his droid assistant, Maggie, would offer some logical reason why that wasn't so, but she was not in the room, seeing to some mundane task within the Library's main room. Verrin pinched his own temples between thumb and forefinger, trying to ease the growing headache there, and also trying to decide if he needed to subjugate Sector A-7 himself, just to find some vanilla-bean-related relief. 

 

"And the Jedi wonder why the Sith can be so angry..." he commented to nobody in particular.

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Holle    60

Since the beginning of her apprenticeship, Holle had done her level best to survive and perform her duties to the best of her abilities. That had not been the case on Dathomir. She had been given responsiblities, work that her master needed done that she promised to succeed in, only to in turn find a way to snatch failure from the jaws of success. Something had taken root on this planet, something had foiled her at every turn and she could not figure out just what it had been. Had she lost favor in the Force? Had she just gotten too lax and forgotten the struggle that it took to even begin to walk again? Whatever it was that had seen to her endeavors ending in misery it was driving her to the brink of madness. Her recent trips through the Academy were often filled with public chastisement of other acolytes, and for reasons only known to her. They could simply have worn the wrong color, or they could looked at her the wrong way, but her open hostility was a definitive change that likely had not gone unnoticed in her master's neverending watch over the Academy.

 

She feared him, though. Holle feared Darth Verrin's power and her own failures were haunting her no matter what she attempted to do. Things began to compound on one another, and slowly her performance in things she used to be the most competent at began to slip. It was self-doubt creeping in where confidence had once been. She had been given challenges on Dromund Kaas and succeeded in them, though with the proper stimuli. Here on Dathomir she felt as if she was still the student and knew it, but had lost some of her edge given the long recovery time it took for her to literally get back on her feet. While she had certainly focused on her abilities in the Force, she was given to second-thought which often saw her efforts to push the boundary further falter. It was much like the stone slab and her attempts at learning more advanced telekinetic power; the challenges kept mounting and her weakness kept haunting her like a curse.

 

Holle knew she should have spoken with her master sooner, but there were certain things her pride held her back on. There was no room to show weakness among peers, but that spread to showing any weakness at all. Her hindsight was the only thing that granted her the clarity to see that her failures were only making her look worse, and by extension her master. If she was to receive forgiveness, if that was possible at this point, she had to prostrate herself and beg for his mercy. While she knew he was by no means as harsh or brutal as other Sith, he was still Sith and still prone to the same things other Sith felt or wanted. He wanted power just as much as any other among the Academy's halls, for her to fail him so much of late had to have made him look terrible. That did not mean it would be easy for her, nor did it mean that even now before his office door that she had the courage to admit her defeats. Even with all the reluctance and fear, she wordlessly requested entry rather than barging in as she was prone to doing. She wanted to prolong her life as long as she could if today's unscheduled meeting meant she was to lose it.

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Darth Verrin    2,081

"Enter," Verrin called when the knock came upon his door. If it had been an obvious threat, the Guardians outside would have stopped it - or tried to. If it had been a rival Sith, or person of great importance, they would have been announced. Instead, it was a person of import, but not a Darth, and not a threat. It was simply his apprentice, Holle.

 

She found him there, seated at his desk with a broken datapad against one wall, and his head cradled between the thumb and forefinger of one hand. His voice called out to her once she proceeded into the room. "What news, apprentice?"

 

Already, he was steeling himself for the next bad report. It wasn't that any such report would be earth-shattering to him, or that any information Holle would share would be unwanted. On the contrary, he needed to know every good, bad, or indifferent thing about the Academy he could learn. The reason he steeled himself, was to prevent his temper from lashing out at the nearest thing - in this case, her.

 

Perhaps she wasn't here to report on anything, anyway.  Maybe she had questions... concerns... Maybe something good had happened to her, and she was here to share? Maybe she had finally found power in her life - some gift from the likes of Atrox or another rival - that would allow her to end him once and for all. Perhaps, despite Maggie's lack of understanding, and the Guardian's lack of concern, his apprentice was here to rise to the seat of power among the Sith. In a sense, that was good news.

 

He waited for the response, focusing on his breathing.

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Holle    60

Holle could tell he was in a bad mood, that much was obvious. Her late reports were likely the case, as they reported little to no success regarding her recent assignments. Under the circumstances she felt fairly justified in her nervousness, but did not hang her head when she offered her master the knee. The Zeltron waited for a moment, before rising, "My Lord, there is talk among the Overseers that some of the recruits from the current batch are performing adequately or ahead of schedule. With all things hearsay should be taken with a grain of salt, but I myself have witnesses several of the students and have found their dedication wanting. It would be remiss of me to lie to you and say the Overseers are correct in their assessment, but they are being quite generous with at least half of the students, and the other half seems to be getting by on bare minimum. Whether or not this is the fault of the students or the Overseers is unknown at this time, but I suspect it to be a combination of both issues compounding into a greater one that we cannot allow to blossom." She said, her voice more concerned than it normally would have been. The students were in some way her responsibility if only because her master was the head of th Academy, but she was not responsible for the behavior of the Overseers.

 

"Should you wish it, I will investigate the matter more thoroughly and find the source of the problem. I have my suspicions that there is someone or a group of someones that are not entirely on board with the new agendas and are trying to undermine it. There is an uneasiness in the Force, in the halls, and I know that I cannot be the only one to have noticed it. Something is wrong, something feels wrong and I cannot put my finger on it." Holle continued, offering her opinion on the matter. It was not asked for, but it seldom was in the span of her apprenticeship. She simply offered it, as if it was some great gift to be granted to someone with whom she discussed matters. There was no mirth in her voice, just a subtle unsettled feeling that surfaced only briefly. She was worried though, that much was obvious in her uneasy body language. It was as if the air in the acadmey had been stifled, and the walls had been adjusted ever so slightly that the building felt just that little bit smaller.

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Darth Verrin    2,081

Verrin sighed. It was a loud, long one too, which probably gave off the idea that he was annoyed with his apprentice, but he wasn't - entirely.

 

She said all the right things. She knelt, she used his title, she paid attention around the Academy and apparently had the ear of the Overseers. This was all good. She also thought. By and large, that was also a good thing, as she considered matters like whether the students or Overseers were at fault, that it could be the combination of the two, or any of another variety of factors. She also appeared to be convinced that this could not be allowed to blossom.  This was true. And then she offered to investigate more - find the source. She guessed that a group of others weren't on board with the new regime, and that was highly probable.

 

Historically, every regime suffered a faction of individuals or groups that didn't agree with the people in power.  So strong was their belief in their own ways, that they worked to undermine those in power, and then to place their people into those positions.

 

Verrin spoke, without removing his hand from his head. "In my own experience, this has happened since my earliest days with the Empire - when Emperor Lydeck took over the Black Empire. It happened again when Emperor Thanos took over Lydeck's empire, and then fragmented again when Thanos pursued the Vitiate's Empire and left behind those on Nogatan. In the Vitiate's realm, Thanos was the segment that didn't agree with those in power, but he failed to usurp the existing empire there. Meanwhile, Emperor Trajan took the void left behind by Thanos, and secured the Empire on Nogatan.  Eventually, a Darth rose, Emperor Cideon, and he took the Empire for himself, to run in his own way. Not appreciating two Empires, or because the nanophage grew too large to handle, Cideon brought us up against the Vitiate, as Thanos had tried to do before. Maybe Thanos weakened the existing power there - or perhaps not - but at the end of that struggle, Cideon's empire won the day, and we took over Dromund Kaas.  

 

But don't think that the existing regime was entirely happy with our arrival. There were loyalists to the old regime, who were displaced when we arrived. They wanted their old power back - or more power, to be precise. They worked to undermine us from within. Emperor Valyrian managed to hold things together for quite some time, but harnessing all that power... wrangling all the Sith and non-Sith within it, all the planets, the armies, the fleets, the economics, the governing... it can be too much. That's partly why the Councils exist - to keep them from undermining the Emperor, and to take some of the burden of rulership from him. Back in olden times, ruling was easier on smaller scales... lead a gang, or a group... lead a village, or a township... lead a city... lead a country, or even a world... it gets harder and harder the more people are involved, and...

 

The lure of power - of ruling so many, or utilizing all those resources, having all of that economy - is difficult to deny. Every Sith strives for it, but once they acquire it, they usually immolate."

 

He paused. It was highly likely he was speaking for his own benefit. A lot of the time, he got the impression that his knowledge was ignored - seen as the ramblings of an old Sith who never made it to the top. They were mistaken though. Verrin never wanted to be Emperor. He had wants and desires, certainly, and rising in power gave him more access to satisfy those wants. But the responsibilities - the chains - that came with it were terrible to bear.

 

He finally went on. "Part of the Sith... philosophy, as it were... is that the strong rise over the weak... that power is obtained through strength... that we purposefully do not seek peace, because it doesn't challenge us to be better, stronger, faster, and so on. The students are looking around these halls now, seeing our reduced numbers, and trying to figure out where they fit in. Where ARE they in the power structure? Who do they challenge? Who challenges THEM?  They do not have a focus, and they wallow in uncertainty.  I am not blind to that fact that these are uncertain times. Our very existence... our legacy... is dependent on our ability to become strong enough to challenge the galaxy once again. We, as the leaders of our 'gang', have to have a vision... a focus for them to get on board with and follow. We have to have a goal."

 

Finally, he dropped his hand and turned his yellowed eyes directly upon his apprentice. "What is your goal, apprentice?  What do you want?  WHY are you here?"

Edited by Darth Verrin
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Holle    60

"The same reason any sensible student is in the Academy, to grow more powerful and become a scion for the Sith. It is my duty to the Order and the Sith'ari to grow more powerful and become something greater than I once was, and discard the trappings of my past to be born anew in the Dark Side. My purpose has never changed." "Holle said, quite firm in her statement. While she began as someone more self-interested than she was now, her motivation to grow more powerful had been shaped by the war. In her humiliating defeat on Dromund Kaas she was given at least one thing, the clarity to focus on growing more powerful not because she wanted to remain free of the chains of slavery, but because it was only through powerful Sith that the Order would once again be reborn into the galaxy. It was a tonal shift in her personality, but to be nearly destroyed and mutilated by the Jedi was quite a bit of a wake-up call for the otherwise lax student. Her training had not progressed since then, not fully, but she had become more gifted in keeping herself hidden from view, if not entirely from the Force. Those with powerful extrasensory capabilities could still find her, which was distressing, but if she was going to be a tool of destruction and change wrought by the Dark Side she needed to re-focus her efforts on becoming powerful rather than a simple spy her master could rely on to deliver news of the academy.

The Zeltron left herself in that resolute place while she looked at her master, 
"We are all here not because of some accident of the Force, or some trick played on the Jedi. The Dark Side gifted us with this location. Without the Force we are powerless. I consider our presence on this planet a sign that our work, our Order, was not meant to be fully destroyed, but instead put to the fire. Those that died, those who did not return once the Sith'ari called them back to service, are just as dangerous if not more dangerous than our Jedi enemies. There is no telling who among us is working to sabotage this effort in regrowth." She continued on, confident in what she was saying. There was one thing Holle had gained and it was dedication. Her near-death experience had helped her shed the final chain that held her from fully committing to the Sith Order.

 

"There are two ways to filter these people out, and eradicate them. We allow it to foment unrest, and track those that commit to undermining both your and the Sith'ari. Once we have a more comprehensive list of those that week to undo the stability we have established on Dathomir we wipe them out as an example, a showing of power. Those who do not commit, are crushed for their weakness and disbelief. But that raises the question of how to handle those that would choose to repent. Do we offer them clemency, or simply crush them in the same sweeping act? There are benefits to either one. On one side you grant clemency to those who wish to return to the fold and it may renew their loyalty and dedication, but they may yet still be prone to desires to undermine the organization we have achieved here. In destroying them we make sure that they cannot possibly convince others that it is right or fair for them to continue their destructive path. The Dark Side thrives on strife and change, but it is my thought that those who would seek to cause destruction among the Sith should be given no quarter." Her voice carried with it a deep sense of paranoia that to her was not unjustified. She had brought this news to her master for his discernment though. She might have been the messengers, but she was not allowed final say on what should be done among the academy. Her position as his apprentice only afforded her so much leeway afterall.

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Darth Verrin    2,081

Verrin groaned at Holle's initial answer. It was textbook, as if she read it aloud from some other student's diary. It wasn't what he wanted to hear, even if - by the book - it was fairly accurate.

 

The second part of her answer was slightly more thoughtful, though largely in the same vein as the first. Verrin wasn't sure if she was trying to tell him what she thought he wanted to hear, or if she was taunting him by purposefully telling him things he didn't.

 

The third part of her answer was just as bad, and really began to get under Verrin's skin. Now, he was trying to decide if she was telling him what he wanted to hear, taunting him, or worse - that he'd somehow failed her as her master.

 

He started to palm his face in disgust, then changed his mind and slammed his fist upon his desk, hard enough to rattle the datapads there. He leaned forward to bark at his apprentice, but then a small seed of doubt made him check himself. That last nudge - that he'd failed to train her properly - was the seed, and he made a mental note to check in with Vanessa at some point to verify whether he was at fault or his apprentice was.

 

He didn't yell, but his voice was still intense. "No... no... NO!  You have the general idea, but not the intent! Of COURSE we want the Sith as a whole to survive, and to thrive!  Of COURSE we want to weed out saboteurs!  Of COURSE we move to stop those who seek our destruction!  But NOT THE WAY YOU'RE DESCRIBING IT!"

 

He grunted, possibly in an effort to hold back anger that wasn't entirely directed at Holle. "You don't grow in power to become some kind of scion of the Sith!  You grow in power because through power you gain victories!  Victories for YOU.  By becoming more powerful, you automatically serve the Sith better - but 'serving' isn't your sole goal is it?  Your duty is to YOU.  Duty... PAH!  DUTY to the Sith!  You don't become 'greater' for them - you do it for YOU.  By doing so, you automatically make 'them' stronger!

 

We are NOT here by some 'accident of the Force - right!  We are here because we took this place.  Just like we are going to TAKE THIS PLANET. We aren't waiting for the Dark Side to hand it over to us - we are taking steps to make it happen!  We aren't 'powerless' without the Force!  That's ridiculous!  The entire Empire existed without the Sith! The Republic exists without the Jedi!!  By including us, they made themselves stronger! But without us, they are not 'powerless'!  There are hundreds of bounty hunters, operatives, and smugglers who would put a hole in the middle of your head without having a lick of the Force at their beck and call!  I assure you, if the Force disappeared tomorrow, I wouldn't roll over and die!  Gifts?!?!  Giving?!?!  What is this - Winter Fete, or the Sith Order?!

 

Are you telling me we are to wait for saboteurs to infiltrate and destroy us BEFORE we identify and eliminate them?!  And how are we supposed to determine judgements for them, when we don't have any to judge! 

 

WHY is it, Apprentice, that we do not yet control Sector A-7?!?!" Verrin finally ended up standing behind his desk, his hands planted firmly on its top. His yellow eyes glared across the way to Holle, seeking some kind of answer. If she couldn't provide it, he would go there himself, and level every living member of that village's tribe if he had to.

Edited by Darth Verrin
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Holle    60

There was an obvious tension that she had not felt before, that her master was legitimately furious with her for what seemed like the first time. Holle was understandably nervous, but chose to attempt concealing that emotion beneath a veneer of calm. "Because the geography of Sector A-7 is a heavily forested hill, as you well know. The proper cultivation of coffee must take place in an environment where frost does not occur, which is why there have been difficulties in scaling the two-thousand meters without losing the majority of our reinforcement to ambushes and guerilla tactics. They are not ignorant tribals, they are intelligent and it is their home field." She answered, herself getting more and more irritable as the moments passed. Holle took the message he delivered, though her thoughts on the matter remained likewise hidden. Perhaps it was time to rethink the matter of unity among the Sith and more about what she should do to bring herself into power.

 

"If you would prefer, I could take an entire batallion of soldiers up, violently wrest control of the hill from the tribe, but the potential for causing the rest of the planet's inhabitants to become violently opposed to our presence seems like too great a risk. It would only end in a battle of escalation that would draw attention to Dathomir. Diplomacy has failed, subtle attacks have failed, the other option is overt destruction. Infiltrating and assassinating the leader of a tribe only means another leader is elevated and the tribe becomes hostile. It is a no win situation, but if you wanted me to destroy them all and think about the consequences later I will do just that and truck my happy ass back up that hill and slaughter them all and just throw caution to the wind." She continued on, giving into her anger and frustration. It did not feel good to be berated like this. For all her efforts to fly relatively under-the-radar there was no chance of that on Dathomir. The avoidance of conflict out of a self-preservation instinct was, at least to many, antithetical to Sith philosophy. The Dark Side fed on conflict and the most she sought was petty arguments with people she considered to be ignorant. Now that she was confronted with actual concrete failure that she could not ignore, things felt worse than they had before.

 

Spoiler

Not much, but it continues things. Life kicked my ass.

 

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Darth Verrin    2,081

*** two days later ***

 

There were mixed accounts of how the meeting with Holle ended. Whispers said that Verrin had rendered his apprentice unconscious, and left the office in a rage - the Guardians had investigated, and taken the young Zeltron woman to the infirmary. But others claimed they saw the pair leave together - albeit with the Master still in a rage, reportedly dragging his apprentice by the hair, leaving her artificial legs scraping along the marble tiles. Those were likely untrue, as there were no gouges in the marble a day later, but naysayers claimed that was due to Maggie's intervention (with a team of contractors). A third rumor claimed that Holle had left in a huff, and that the 'feeble old Librarian' had chased after her, begging her to finish her work in the jungle. But no Guardian spoke the truth of the matter, and any questions were diverted.

 

Whatever the case, two days later, in sector A-7, Verrin came upon a hunting party of amazons. He was fired upon - or more accurately, they threw spears at the trespassing Sith. The two warriors who attacked suddenly keeled over, dead, and their clanmates couldn't say why.  One suggested witchcraft, another whispered god-magic. Neither ever saw the Sith in question again though, when he simply disappeared into the jungle. They listened though, when their leader suddenly ordered them to all return to the main village, bearing their kinsmen home for burial. Later, than same leader would say she had a premonition of bad ju-ju if they remained where they were, though she couldn't say why. Little did the party know, that the Sith was following them 'home'.

 

The trip took a surprisingly short amount of time. The women of the tribe were strong and hardy, and even burdened with the loss (and bodies) of their fellows, they made good time. They went straight back to the village - a settlement nestled in a natural valley on the upper side of the hill that Holle described. There, a small lake supplied water, and the natural hillside provided shelter, offering a climate that was perfect for growing food. If the tribe understood agriculture, they would have farmed the land for their sustenance - but instead, they hunted and gathered, and the natural 'coffee' they collected in the valley was a treat rather than a main source of supply.

 

However, they did unknowingly lead the hidden Sith to their lair, and when night fell, and the tribeswomen settled down to sleep, he went to work.

 

Verrin scouted the village from a perch in a tree, not far from the main settlement. He spotted guard patrols - presumably to protect the tribe from rivals and unfriendly jungle beasts. They weren't large groups, at night, but he wouldn't have wanted to arm wrestle any of them. The hunters of this tribe stood at least three meters tall - and that was a few inches taller than him - and they likely outweighed him by forty pounds or more. Verrin was no slouch, physically, thanks to training from Darth Tanit, but these women lived physical lives, whereas he was indeed a Librarian. The biggest women were almost seven feet tall, and close to two hundred fifty pounds of muscle.

 

But it wasn't the warriors that concerned Verrin the most - it was the village shaman. She wasn't the biggest, but she was Force sensitive. He had to be careful that she didn't detect him - whether consciously or otherwise - lest he give away his stealthy advantage. He silently made his way to her hut.

 

For him, it was easy to slip inside. With the Force, even solid fibersteel walls were no match for him, as he simply phased through the solid matter as if it was water. He emerged within the tent, and focused his will upon the sleeping shamaness. In her dreams, she sensed his presence, but in those same dreams she saw him as an ally, or totem. She woke with a start, looking around her darkened hut, but even though her eyes passed over him, she didn't see him. She could still see his face in her dreams though - the skull-shaped mask of the mysterious Sith.

 

Concerned, the shamaness got up and made her way to the tribal leader's hut.  It wasn't the most grandiose structure in the village, for that was the main 'hall' where dances and rituals were performed, and feasts were had to celebrate occasions. But it was close by, and as sturdy a structure as any. The shaman walked inside as if she owned the place, followed by a shadow that didn't look like her at all.

 

The two tribal leaders conversed in a language Verrin did not understand. But he sensed that the shaman was describing a vision, and the leader was listening intently. Verrin used the opportunity to place suggestions in her mind, leading her to listen more attentively. She nodded, waved the shaman away, but her hunter instincts were on fire - she noticed that the 'shadow' of the shaman didn't leave with her. Still - confident in her own prowess, in her own home, the leader of the tribe narrowed her eyes and spoke softly in her own tongue - calling out to the shadow.

 

Verrin let his stealthiness drop altogether, appearing before her like some skeletal spectre. His black half-robe and gauntlets absorbed light, while his skeletal mask turned it back. He did not appear to be impressed by the stature of the leader.

 

For her part, the leader was the penultimate example of her kind. She was a foot taller than Verrin, and her shoulders were wider. She was naked, and no ounce of her showed fat - she was a pillar of muscular strength.  Her hands could palm his face with ease. Her thighs could crush his skull - were it not that of a Zabrak. And her breasts stood firm, as if daring him not to look her in the eyes. Her eyes - black pools of hardened living - stared at him in disbelief, but not fear. She spoke again, and again her tone was calm and collected, though Verrin didn't understand her.

 

His expressionless mask simply stared back at her for a long moment, and then he won the 'contest' when he sent a telepathic message directly to her mind.

 

"You and your people will serve me. Is that understood?"

 

She blinked in surprise at the message, though she didn't quite understand it either. Telepathically, she understood that he was communicating with her, and that his intentions weren't aggressive. But the specifics of what he was saying were lost on her.

 

It was a mild setback for him. Instead of becoming frustrated, he communicated again - this time, his telepathy used pictures instead of words. They depicted the tribe and the Sith prospering together - the Sith providing the tribe's needs: medicine, allies against their enemies, and shelter in emergencies, while the tribe gave the Sith strong, able people, contacts among the tribes, and for some reason, coffee beans.

 

The leader cocked her head, understanding, but not. She knew what alliances were, and she could see the benefits for her people depicted. But she couldn't quite understand the fascination with the coffee plants - or how her people were to become 'farmers'. They were warriors, not agriculturists.

 

Verrin sensed her hesitation, and gave her more images: of her tribe's shamaness, and the children of that shaman. They would work their rituals and rites , learning from the Sith, while the Sith worked with the shamanesses to provide even more power.  The power shown was more than any of the neighboring tribes, and that kind of power and influence would make the leader's tribe the strongest. She understood that well, and cocked her head again in consideration. Verrin got the impression that she saw this as 'too good to be true'.

 

He held up a staying hand, and proceeded to lift it, levitating the leader off of her feet.  He did it slowly and gently, so while she was startled, she didn't shout out. When she was a foot above the ground, Verrin filled her mind with images of her being a goddess among the tribes.  She liked that. She went from concerned to interested, and then her gaze shifted even more, suggesting something more... physical. This wasn't Verrin's first time on Dathomir. He understood that the tribeswomen captured men and mated with them in order to produce strong offspring to lead their tribes in the future.  That was normal. He nodded at her - his skull mask glinting. He then lowered her back to the ground, noting how her toes curled into the earth, glad to be back. But she reached for him - whether to grapple him or embrace him was unclear. Either way, she found she couldn't connect with his body. He wagged a finger and gave her an image of Holle.

 

The leader frowned. She couldn't mate with a Zeltron - not this one anyway. But the vision showed them clasping arms, nodding at one another. Some agreement was to be made. The vision showed daylight. Whatever was to happen, wouldn't happen this night.

 

When she blinked again, the vision disappeared, and she was left staring at the side of her tent. Her visitor was nowhere to be seen.  She frowned at his sudden disappearance wondering if she imagined it - but somehow knowing it was real. She wondered though... if she could get a hold of the skull-faced man...

 

The morning of the next day, Verrin sat in his office once more, awaiting the arrival of his apprentice. She had a job to do.

 

 

 


Force powers used:

Phase

 

Force Crush

Force Shroud

Telepathy

Force Persuasion

Telekinesis

Force Empathy
 

 

 

 

Edited by Darth Verrin
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Holle    60

Failure. Holle had a long and storied relationship with failure if her own personal assessment was to be believed. It was true that her successes were limited in their scope and impact, but they were still successes in the end. Her failures though, had been far more monumental in terms of the personal impacts they had on her life. The greatest was to lose her legs below the knees, and even that seemed like an easy recovery after damaging the trust her master had in her to complete even remotely simple tasks. Nothing felt right anymore, and her confidence had most definitely been shaken.

 

Fear had motivated the Zeltron to avoid the general halls of the Academy. Her meditations and personal interests in the history of the Sith Order kept her occupied in her self-imposed isolation. The room she called her own paled in comparison to the apartment she lived in on Dromund Kaas. There was a general feeling of resentment for the downgrade in her living arrangements but there was no true target for which her scorn could be placed other than the Jedi. That she was still alive was somewhat of a blessing these days though, considering her struggles ever since the war. Things had been difficult to adjust to, and she had been more squeamish as a whole than before. It still sat on her shoulders that she had not managed to even defend herself adequately in order to retreat with the Empire. She had to be rescued, yet again, and it felt to her that she was simply being kept alive at this point rather than living on her own.

 

Her isolation was required to end though, not by choice but by obligation. In avoiding the student body and the Overseers she had spent time reevaluating her priorities. What she found was that her master was right and that she had no real drive or purpose thus far. She was learning, and receiving training, but without an end goal it was time spent teaching someone without a plan for their life. Holle had never planned her life out though. Even as a Sith the chain that bound her most fiercely was the remnants of the mental conditioning that slaves received. Her life was her own now and while she knew her place as a Sith she still did not know ultimately that it was well within her right to plan ahead for her own motives and goals.

 

The relationship of the master and apprentice further compounded her inner conflict to the point that she was convinced up until two days ago that she was meant only to serve the Empire. Her master admonished her fiercely, and in doing so forced the reevaluation in directly. If it was not satisfactory for her to be servile, and it was not satisfactory for her to be fully independent based on the nature of the master and apprentice relationship, then somewhere in the middle was the ground she had never covered. For once she considered her own needs, her own desires among the Sith and found that she had been little more than a doormat to be ordered around. If that reputation had garnered any footing among the students then there would be no respect for her anywhere. Overseers hated her, the students resented her, and now her master was angry with her.

 

Holle returned to her master's office though, intent to at least try to repair the damage she had done with her incompetence. On bended knee she offered her respects as befitting his office, "My Lord." she said, and nothing more. She had nothing to report, nor did she have anything of value to offer him. If he required her to speak at this point after her latest failure he would either request or demand it. Holle accepted a hot tea from Maggie and seated herself across from the Zabrak, expecting to be further admonished or at the least criticized. With nothing under her belt to call her own success of late it was anyone's guess as to how long she would yet last if this latest pattern continued.

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Darth Verrin    2,081

"Apprentice," Verrin greeted his pupil in return.

 

He remained quiet for a moment or two though, trying to think of what to say, or what to ask. He'd tasked her with the job that he eventually had to do himself, but then, he was a trained Darth, and she an apprentice. Had he expected too much, too soon?

 

He'd asked himself that very question, in the hours since he'd left the tribes-people of Sector A-7. Were his expectations of her realistic, or was he pushing too hard? He couldn't see her legs from this angle, but he knew they had been replaced with prosthetic. Her show of kneeling to him when she arrived was nothing short of impressive. Even if it pained her to do so, she did it. Was her pain fueling her power, or was he not teaching her how to utilize it?

 

He'd had minor success with berating her, in her early days. Her initial efforts in telekinesis had all but failed until he'd stressed her to the point of breaking. He could pursue that path again, but would he achieve the same results? Or would she break this time, becoming useless... or dead?

 

He finally spoke, hands clasped before him on the desk. "I have concerns, Apprentice," he began.

 

"Tell me, did your replacement legs strengthen your resolve in your pursuit of power, or did they weaken your connection to the Force?"  It was an oblique question, but it did hold some weight. Verrin had work done in his earlier career - enhancements done to his knee that enabled him to leave his cane behind and rejoin the ranks of the healthy two-legged sentients. He hadn't felt weakened by that surgery, but then he only had a knee replaced - not entire limbs, and certainly not the lower half of his body.  He had heard rumors of those who lost flesh, and lost their strength in the Force. But he'd also witnessed Darths with many cybernetic replacements... so the loss of power was an interesting issue.

 

More importantly though, was how it affected his pupil personally.

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Holle    60

"That is difficult to say, my Lord. As I am now I cannot say that I feel appreciably weakened by the loss of my legs, at least as it relates to my connection to the Force." Holle answered honestly. She had no concerns as to the reasoning behind the question. So far as she understood it was an entirely logical thing to want to know. There were Sith that had numerous cybernetic replacements, far more than she, and they seemed fine. She felt pain every single time she went to her knee before her master, yet she did so out of devotion to the social order. Without order there was nothing, and the Sith were nothing if not held accountable on the hierarchy of power.

 

The Zeltron sipped her tea, "They cause me great pain at every waking moment though. I cannot say if it is true pain, or if I am recalling the feeling of having lost them in battle. My desire for power has not changed, though, as your question might suggest. We all face struggles in our pursuit of power, correct? I have had tremendous difficulites adjusting my life around my prosthetic legs, and it has finally shown in my ability to produce positive results. It would seem that now is the time that I should change in order to adapt to this new challenge as I clearly cannot tackle this as directly as I would have liked to." She continued. If she was going to answer a question she was going to leave nothing else on the table. With their previous meeting ending in a less than stellar fashion she was not going to answer in any other way than how she felt was fitting to the line of inquiry.

 

As she paused for consideration she put her own honest opinion of herself on the table as well. "This, more than anything else, has shown me that my effectiveness is not in the realm of direct conflicts or battle. My strengths lie elsewhere, and while I attempted to push myself toward a more battle-ready mindset I only hindered myself by not focusing on what I was already capable of doing and developing that further. I am not made for open warfare, simply put." She finished, nodding to the droid as she refilled her tea.

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Darth Verrin    2,081

"Well," he began in response, "Not many people - Sith or otherwise - are made for open warfare.  Except the Mandalorians, I suppose, but they are something else altogether. "

 

She was having doubts.  That much was clear. They weren't bad - these particular doubts - but hindsight was nigh perfect in showing her possible missteps in her goals and practices.

 

"I certainly never considered myself 'made for open warfare', even given my ancestor's tendencies, and my peope's calling. I developed what skills I have because my path to the power I craved required them - not out of any great desire to be a combatant. You may be right - that your focus was misplaced this early in your quest for strength. But don't dismiss the need for those skills down the road.  You may find them... necessary, to get to where you want to be one day."

 

He seemed to consider something for a moment, and then added, "I'm not sure how your particular replacements work. From what I understand, the 'phantom pain' will be there for a while, and then you'll get used to it, such that you'll forget you ever had real limbs. But one of the 'features' of common prosthesis is that they don't transmit the sense of touch - there is no pain. You can be struck, lit on fire, electrified, and you won't suffer as long as the catalyst hits your artificial limbs.

 

The down side, however, is that without the pain, you will have to find other resources to fuel your power in the Force. Whether you fuel your power with more hate, or find emotional pain, or lash yourself daily on parts that still feel... you will find yourself challenged in that regard. As your master, I can 'teach' those ways to you, but they are not pleasant. It's better if you develop them yourself.  But should you find progress to be slow... just ask."

 

Verrin stood up and paced behind his desk. The change in posture indicated a change in topic.

 

"I went up to Sector A-7... had some words with the chieftain, so to speak.  She and her head shaman will be more receptive to you on your next visit. BUT... you will need to understand who you're dealing with.

 

Like the Sith, she respects power. In terms of their lives, this power tends to take the form of simple strength - raw, physical, strength. Obviously, you don't have that - neither do I - so we have to show her our strength in other ways. Similarly, she desires power.  Sure, she has power among her own tribe, but she wants more - just as you do. You have to give her things she wants, to get her to give you what you want. Show her a token of strength - something that adds to her influence among her people, or among other tribes in the area, and she'll be more receptive to giving gifts of power in return... once she knows what you want, that is.  You can wave off gifts of colored beads and arrowheads, unless those trinkets appeal to you.

 

What gives her more power - power over other tribes? Weapons? Armor? Maybe... but she might not respect armor... she might see it as a crutch, or a weakness, if not presented properly. How about strong children? The strength of her tribe grows, the stronger her people are.  Give her strong slaves to mate with? Give her medicines to prolong the lives of her strongest warriors when wounded?  Teach her shaman some ritual magic they can use against their enemies?  The point is - we need them to see us as allies... and as their allies, we need to aid them against their enemies - whoever they are. I leave details up to you, apprentice. But... find a way to communicate with them.  They aren't stupid - I just didn't speak their language, and I didn't bring a protocol droid with me. I'm not even sure how they would react to one."

 

He stopped pacing. "Dammit, apprentice. Get me some coffee?"

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Holle    60

"My original intent was to trade with them in exchange for use of cultivation lands, but they attacked us before we could make any kind of offering. But excuses are excuses. I will travel out to Sector A-7 with my droid and attempt to bridge the communication gap, my Lord." She said, finishing her second cup of tea. Holle had no taste for the jungle yet, and thus far going back into said jungle had been the last thing on her to-do list. It felt bad to admit that she was afraid of the native warriors of this planet, but they were quite a lot more competent than her initial appraisal. The assumption that their technology level dictated their skill in battle was so vastly incorrect. It was times like these that she missed living in a city.

 

For her part though, she had some plan to provide coffee just short of growing new plants in the land yet to be secured for use. There were certain inherent risks with importing to Dathomir, but there were also disreputable channels that could be used to great effect among the spacers abroad. If she could not immediately grow coffee she could at least try to secure a cargo of coffee in the meantime. At least importing something could hold her place while she works on trading with the natives from a place where they understood one another. That would require trying to establish a contact outside of Dathomir, likely in Hutt space, which in and of itself presented various challenges. On the other hand, making contacts among the Hutt gangs could also pay off in terms of other more dubious acquisitions as well. Holle had several things to consider.

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