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Wolph in the Fold, Part II

Posted on Thu Oct 1st, 2020 @ 10:41pm by Sotah & Bomoor Thort & Amare & Rusasha Djehuti-Lahan & Rynseh Lahan

Chapter: Chapter VI: The Last Bastion
Location: Reborn Jedi High Temple, Coruscant
Timeline: Mid-Week Three

"I appreciate the report, padawan," the baritone of Master Rynseh Lahan's voice was heard some distance away near the entrance to the Archives. "Tell Master Toku that..." he paused, his voice trailing off as he felt a strange, almost imperceptible nudge in the back of his skull. He turned about halfway, keen feline eyes scanning the ancient hall of Jedi enlightenment, a hand subconsciously slipped close to his lightsaber as was his habit from years of battle and hardships.

"Master?" the young male dusky-skinned padawan asked with concern. "Master Lahan? Is something the matter?"

Rynseh glanced about, stretched his feelings out through the Force, but nowhere close to his full sense-enhancing potential. He recognized just about every face in the room including Master Farr and Knight Illyvar, but no one out of the ordinary. After a brief moment, Ryn shook his head and sighed figuring it was paranoia getting the best of him, the fever-pitched narrow escape from Korriban barely surviving those powerful cultists still knawing at him. Just the fact that Axion and his minions were still out there as unresolved and very dangerous loose ends perturbed him greatly.

"It's nothing, padawan," he said turning back to the young man, a potential recruit for his growing legion of Jedi Crusaders. "I am fine. Return to your master's side, and may the Force be with you both on your mission. Return to us safely."

"Yes, master," the padawan answered with a bow. "Thank you. Please excuse me."

Rynseh turned from the departing youth to glace back at the Archives once more--again spotting nothing amiss--before detecting the distinct amphibious aroma of a certain robed Selkathian sage. He turned, following his nose to spot Master Sotah standing in almost the exact spot where the padawan had been seconds before. He had never known Sotah to be so capable an artist of stealth before.

"Master Sotah," he half-heartedly greeted the disgraced ex-Councilman with barely a nod before turning to leave for an impromtu meeting at the Tranquility Spire, the center of the five spires of the ancient Jedi Temple.

Sotah had watched the Cathar quite impassively, a serene expression on his aquatic features, having offered only a slight bow of respect to the figure that now, officially, was positioned higher than him within their esoteric order - although it was rapidly, even at face value, appearing to decline into a more militaristic manner.

It was hard to tell whether that was a remnant of the Second Outer Rim Conflict, a sign of the Jedi's own corruption, or a telling indication of what was yet to come.

After a few moments of gazing into the middle-distance where Rynseh had departed, Sotah turned his attention towards the Archives proper - chiefly to the area where Amare was positioned. The Selkath Jedi gave no indication initially that he had even noticed the concealed Sith apprentice, let alone noticed her, but his beaming yet serene presence within the Force was unmistakable. Oddly, there were even rhythms not entirely unlike those detected within Thane, albeit stronger, more refined and, simply, purer.

Tucking his hands into his deep-blue robes, Sotah walked gracefully towards the station Amare was sat at, and looked very much to be preparing to move straight past her. However, just as his entire form seemed to move away and out of her sight, his gentle voice crooned from behind her, and a three-fingered hand came to rest carefully on her left shoulder. A very delicate calming influence, most definitely from his connection to the Force, threatened to seep into her.

"You are far from home and kin, young one," he lisped, his Basic heavily-accented by his Selkath tongue. His tone was pleasant and inquisitive, but his words were ambiguous - quite intentionally so, it would seem.

"Y-yes, sir," Amare responded nervously as her blood pressure rose and her hearts threatened to beat dangerously beyond her control. "I miss my home...my friends..."

The gatekeeper of Darth Bane's holocron, in its recounting of his own apprentice's successful infiltration of the Jedi Temple, had warned that close proximity and direct physical contact with a sufficiently powerful Jedi could prove fatal. In such circumstances, failure was not only likely, but inevitable.

Amare had been bested at her own game of concealment; a Jedi Master having deceived and checked her in two effortless moves. In all her ignominious stubbornness, however, she was determined to not let the check be a checkmate just yet. While Bane had wisdom to share for fighting back from the impossible, Amare did have her knowledge of slicing and decided it was time to apply some of that knowledge into her experiences with her own fractured mind and the effects the Force has had on it.

"If I sound nervous to you," she added, her eyes keeping focus on the holocron data on the console, "it's because I've failed my master." Her words were spoken with an ironic twist of truth coupled with a breathy sigh of regret, part of it for show, part of it for feeling like she was just a really lucky little fool, blundering her way into and out of trouble for almost a year, knowing that someday (perhaps this very day) that her luck was due to be exhausted. "Part of my task here was to practice my powers of concealment around others trained in the ways of the Force."

As she spoke, she let her thoughts shift instinctively in a desperate effort to prevent her alignment spell from collapsing. Her ad hoc "firewall" of sorts was to let her mind drift back to joyous memories, one in particular where, when she was ten years-old, she designed and synth-weaved a bright yellow dress with turquoise lining for her adopted mother, Callotrebla Wolph's birthday. The dress was two sizes too small and the hem line was less than perfect, but she recalled how delighted Callo was to have received such a gift with so much thought and effort put into it, and immediately offered that they work on refitting it together as mother and daughter. That was the day Amare realized she enjoyed giving more than receiving. That, however, was changing lately, and the mere idea of becoming selfish and driven only for power disgusted her. She wanted to be that good girl again so much, but what was more important was survival, and if that meant sacrificing some childhood ideals, then so be it.

"At this rate," she concluded with shame in her tone to the mysterious, yet kindly old Selketh whose presence in the light side of the Force was overwhelmingly luminous, "I'll never complete my Shadow training, let alone become a Knight. I...haven't been the best student. I don't want to fail." She ended with her eyes closed, a single tear threatening to slip out, half-expecting that her attempt to anchor her alignment spell had indeed failed, and that she would be assaulted in all directions by a tsunami of Force powers at any second. Her fate was quite literally in this aged Jedi's hands.

"It is not the fate of all who may touch the Force to become Jedi Knights," he replied quietly, taking his hand from her and assuming the seat next to hers, looking and acting every bith a grandfatherly figure, his manner as though he had known the young Nautolan for years. He looked at her with woeful but kind eyes. There was a very obvious sadness to this man, who had suffered his own losses of varying natures in very recent history.

He shuffled his robe a little, briefly displaying his own smooth lightsaber hilt, as he made his older bones comfortable. "Your master has high expectations," Sotah said, muttered as more of a statement than a question. "Such lofty attitudes are usually a reflection of one's own attitude towards themselves." He briefly glanced the holographic display and then back to Amare, a very toothy Selkath smile offered to her, being both goofy and comforting. "Your master must have great faith in your potential, to lead you to such challenging trials... unnaccompanied."

Once again, the Jedi Master shuffled a little, but he took to stroking one of the fleshy tendrils that stretched down from his face thoughtfully. The gesture seemed to bring him some comfort.

"Whose concept of failure do you wear, I wonder?" He almost chuckled. "I make it my business to maintain my own standards of success, so subjective is the corrupting folly of victory - or failure. Hollow and one-sided. Besides," he waved a little with his free hand, "the discovery of a new friend is never a failure."

While Amare did not particularly care for the friendship of a Jedi given her status as one of two of their sworn mortal enemies, it had occurred to her that Thane had mentioned his master before in conversation having been a Selkath male. Against her own better judgment, she couldn't help but wonder...was this him? Was this gentle-hearted aged creature Thane's former master, Sotah of Manaan? The very thought alone gave her pause as it might have explained why she was easily found by him. Most everything Thane knew about the Force had started with Sotah. Since some of those teachings passed to Amare, the three of them were, in a way, a kind of family linked by tradition and the mysterious ways of the Force.

"I'm sorry, I have been rude," Amare remarked. "Where are my manners? I'm Zaracoda. It's an honour to meet you, Master...?" her voice trailed, prompting him for his name.

Knight Illyvar had been watching the conversation from over her datapad, but chose now to interject, "I'm surprised you do not recognise Master Sotah, apprentice. Until quite recently, he sat on the Jedi Council."

She flashed him a glance, barely masking a smirk, "In fact, now my own former mentor, Master Medion, has been granted a seat on the council. Perhaps you know of him?"

"This is a little embarrassing," Amare answered in a bashful manner with her eyes averted from Illyvar, and turned to Sotah, "but I haven't kept up with the news. I'm sorry, I didn't know." Then turning back to the prideful Mikkian woman, "I've heard almost nothing of the Temple here in a very long time. I'm sure your master is quite an...inspiration to us all."

Sotah's pleasant mien did not falter at the barely-concealed barb from the Mikkian. He smiled at her, too, whilst addressing Amare. "Master Medion is well-renowned in very secluded and auspicious circles, known to those of certain... critical dispositions." He looked back to the Nautolan. "You could be forgiven for not hearing of the good master; his work is conducted beyond the view of the wider world, so delicate is its nature. He is not a man of glory - or transparency."

"That is true," Ilyvar seemed to ponder the response with narrowed eyes, "As a master Shadow, he certainly is not a glory seeker but perhaps he will earn the respect he deserves with his position on the council."

She let out a sigh, "But alas, I am quite busy. Master Sotah, perhaps you can spare a moment with this apprentice and help her find the holocron she seeks."

Without awaiting an agreement from the Selkath she turned and paced off, turning back only to add, "Just don't lead her down any dark paths. We must remember what happened to Thane."

The words hit Amare with a great clarity as the bitter Mikkian fell out of her focus.

With Amare having confirmation that she was face-to-face with Thane's old master himself, she began to ponder the potential opportunities she had in his presence. She wondered how much Sotah knew or suspected of Thane's turn from the light to the darkness as the first Lord of the Sith in a millennium. Growing more and more fascinated with the disgraced Jedi Master by the moment, she pondered just how much she could trust Sotah, and if she could confide in him about her place in Thane's quest to battle the Cult of Axion.

With the Mikkian now gone, Sotah's full attention was once more on Amare (although it could hardly be considered as to having been given to Illyvar much, anyway), and he brought his hands together upon the table.

"You did not answer my question, young Zaracoda," he said kindly, aged but intelligent and quick eyes watching the unwelcome guest of the Jedi Temple. "Whose concept do you wear? Even without an answer, it is clear you have internalised much of your master's character or expectations, to wear them on your sleeve so plainly. Have you been with him long?"

I wasn't aware there was a question, Amare had barely managed to keep herself from speaking out loud. The masking spell was akin to walking a tightrope; there would be the occasional wobbles and need for mental counterbalancing. The memory of her hugging Bomoor on Yavin 4 kept her steady. She was having mixed feelings about the good Ithorian as of late, but she still cared deeply for him, and didn't want him to grow as dark or vicious as she or Thane were becoming.

"I happily wear my master's influence," she answered with a solemn nod before turning back to absently flip through a few different holocron records on the computer. "It is a mantle that has kept me warm on cold nights, helped me find my way when I felt lost, and taught me the importance of learning to sink or swim on my own." She lost interest in the mission for the moment, and decided to chance the risk of engaging with Sotah further, awash with interest at what she could learn from the indirect and unintentional grandfather of the reborn Sith Order. "I have not been with my master for long," she added after switching off the monitor and giving the Selkath her undivided attention, "but there are days I feel as if I've known him all my life." She lowered her voice and leaned in close, "I wager that you've met him before. Perhaps you are even very well-acquainted with him too." If she had the ability to spell the name Thane in the swirls of her eyes, she would have done so to covertly drive her point home.

That comment seemed to give Sotah pause for thought. Where a confident and contemplative creature had sat before her just moments before, wise and powerful, the Selkath now quickly seemed troubled and distant. A sadness was easy to see on his aquatic features, with a deep woe permeating his dark eyes, which were now cast to the marble floor of the Archival chamber.

"Jedi come and go and change so much through the years," he finally said, a little wistfully, "that it can be hard to even recognise an old friend, after the rigours of the galaxy enact their harsh toll on them." After a few more seconds, Sotah managed to recover something more of his former self and smile for Amare. He patted her arm affectionately. "'Though oft-times, it is said that we see reflections of who we once were in the children we raise, or the outline of the figure we had perhaps hoped to be."

He patted her arm a couple more times before beginning to rise once from his seat. "There is wholesomeness and great reward in the tutelage of the new age. I do not doubt that your master expended great thought on selecting his pupil and the manner of her instruction." Sotah gathered his dark-blue robe closely around his body, clutching it tightly. "Perhaps there is some way I could assist her now, hmm?" He nodded towards the now-inactive terminal. "What is it your master seeks?"

The Nautolan had tried not to smirk upon hearing the utterances of female gender pronouns, and for a second wondered how things might've been different if Thane were a woman instead, but she shook off the awkward thought considered answering the question directly. However, the archives were starting to become more crowded as a sizable throng of adolescent padawans comprised of many different species filed into the Archives to research and study for an upcoming exam. As a result, she decided a temporary change of venue would be best.

"Well, he would like for me to surpass him in every way," Amare replied with a warm smile, finding it so easy to almost forget her new life as a Sith being close to Sotah. She felt the shining goodness in him, and it filled her with a small seed of guilt for all the bad things she had done in recent months. She wondered how someone so joyful and selfless could raise a man who could choose to become the first Sith Lord in a millennium. Then she glanced around and remembered that it wasn't Sotah, it was everyone else. It was the filthy, despicable world around them. Men like Rynseh Lahan and Jundal Quellus.

"And that includes research," she added. "In my master's view, the best path to learning is to face challenges alone trusting only in one's faith in the Force. He would not approve of me taking too much valuable time from one of our respected Temple Masters. Perhaps in a few hours we can talk elsewhere on the grounds? Somewhere in the open maybe? Somewhere less...popular?"

That brought something of a reverent smile to Sotah's face, his pearl-white teeth exposed briefly. He appeared to be reminiscing on something wistfully, and only briefly seemed to consider rejecting the offer.

"Whilst the galaxy is a large and ever-shifting and expanding realm, touched by a spectrum of ubiquitous power, one can feel both crowded and terribly alone at once," the Selkath said kindly, bringing his hands together within his robe, looking affectionately at his new friend. "It is right to prize one's ability to think and act for one's self with courage and wisdom, but it is wrong to believe there is never support or companionship out there."

Clearly, the elder Jedi Master was buoyed in some manner by the revelation and appearance of the young Nautolan, content to speak with her in such a way. He began to guide her in a certain direction. "Even in the darkest depths, luminous beings are we; there is always a light to find, to both guide and comfort you, little one. You need only look for it."

They walked a little further. "Your master..." Sotah then paused, and slowed his pace, then offering a sidelong look to Amare. "Your master will always have companionship, too." They stopped, and Sotah looked at the Sith apprentice with a meaningful, still pleasant, expression. "Please remind him of that, given his new station so far from friends."

"You are most kind, master," Amare said without guile or misdirection to the one Jedi in existence that she felt she could trust. "I will deliver your wisdom to him without fail."

Sotah smiled again. "The Gial Ackbar Memorial Aquagarden is a favoured haunt of mine. I think you are also uniquely positioned to enjoy the homely pleasures offered by the retreat. I would happily let you buy me dinner there this evening."

The young Sith in disguise allowed her delight to spread wide in a toothy smile the way only a Nautolan could.

"I would be honoured," she said with a respectful bow to Sotah.

Amare's attention had been so wholly focused on Sotah that she failed to notice another pair of bright green eyes at the other end of the Archives that had stopped and taken notice of the tail-end of the conversation.

Rusasha Lahan had seen the Nautolan bow to the Selkath Jedi Master before turning about and exiting back the way she came. She stopped some distance away in the adjoining hall and blinked her eyes towards the floor in disbelief whilst shaking her head. For a split second, she thought she saw Zenarrah again, but this one was younger, the smoother skin a shade more pale, the lekku not quite as long, and stood a bit shorter than Zen. She was positive it was an outsider for the few other Nautolan Jedi in the Temple were tall males with green or purple skin.

Ru decided to slip away quietly, pulling the hood of her plain brown Jedi robe over her head to avoid being noticed by Sotah as she left to resume her menial labours. Since she was under the punishment of an oath of silence, she decided it was better to keep her distance for the time being and try to find some way later to keep tabs on the strange visiting blue Nautolan padawan...

TBC

 

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