RP - Star Wars: Queen of Hearts

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She could have been a Czerka regional manager with the way she was dressed, a stylish, black business suit with a long fitted jacket and knee-length skirt, and she wore it to good effect. It showed off her figure without being immodest, and with her upswept black hair, emphasized the marble pallor of her skin. She walked through the entry hall with the perfect ease of a woman accustomed to admiration, which she got even there, in the detached, meditative quiet of the Jedi temple.

"Pardon me," she said to the young man who sat behind a rather official looking desk, "I would like to speak with one of the Jedi Masters, please."

"Um, well, I'm a Jedi," he offered. She gave him a little smile, warm, understanding, faintly amused. "Can I help you?"

"That's very kind but I'm afraid I really must speak with one of the Masters." Her continuing smile was not flirtatious but he blushed anyway.

"Well, I'm not sure if they are available right now. They are awfully busy."

"Oh, that's quite all right. I'll wait." She sat down and crossed her legs. The young man watched her knees slide beneath the hem of her skirt, then looked away.

"May I tell them why you are here, what you want to talk to talk to them about?" His voice cracked, he looked down at the floor, then at her legs, then away across the room, then back to his desk.

"I'm sorry, but no."

They sat in silence for a bit. She watched him look for something to look at, the little smile still on her lips.

Finally, she sighed and said, "Perhaps if I show you my credentials...?"

"Um, yes, I mean, maybe I could..."

From her purse she drew out a white mask and a slim red-and-gold lightsaber. "My name is Darth Erzabet, and I'd like to speak with a Jedi Master now, please."

Corev strode up the steps to the JedI temple, his footsteps echoing through the front courtyard. He approached the front doors and pushed them open to reveal the main room of the Jedi Temple. He liked it here it seemed peaceful. It had been awhile since the last time he had been here but he wasn't there to stare at the scenery.

He approached the main counter where a young Jedi stood.

"Hello Master Jedi, I'm here to see the Master Nahila."

"Do you have an appointment?"

"No but tell her Corev Saal is here to see her."

"I will but without an appointment you aren't likely to get in to see her, she has been busy lately."

"I will wait over here while you tell her, Master Jedi." He walked away leaving the young Jedi dumbfounded. He leaned against a counter nearby as he waited for the Jedi at the counter to call Nahila. He hoped the boy wouldn't wait too long.

Corev looked over towards the entrance of the temple to see a women walking up the steps. Normally he wouldn't have paid much attention to some woman coming to visit the temple, even if she was Force Sensitive. It was a Jedi temple and he was sure a lot of women came to visit them. At first he had assumed her to be a Jedi herself but something about the way she looked and carried herself showed that she wasn't. As she approached the counter and walked past him he also noticed something else different about her. She felt different, he couldn't explain it but even though she was weak in the Force there was something special about her, he just couldn't place what.

He watched as she talked to the young Jedi at the counter. Watched as he gazed at her with admiration, even adoration. It was as if she was a young lady flirting with him and he was acting like a young boy tripping over himself to please her. There was something very odd about her.

She said something about showing credentials and pulled something out. He stared dumbfounded at the mask and saber in her hand. She was a Sith and she had just brought herself into a Jedi temple. What her purpose was he did not know but his business with Nahila had just become more urgent.

Cain rested his palm over the hilt of his lightsaber, concealed under his robe, but still able to feel the contours, scratches and bumps through the cloth. He was told that this habit was held by many that did so when they felt nervous or insecure, but Cain was just restless. He already felt as if he had done a hard days work and he'd only been working for an hour, but that was okay. In fact, it was relief. Every ache, every bead of sweat was a reminder that he had a purpose. Sure, that purpose was not as...glamorous as being a 'hero' in the Mandalorian Wars, nor was it as rewarding as his life as a Jedi in this very same Temple. However, no matter how insignificant his work may be now, it was still a goal, a meaning to hold on to when all other meanings had vanished.

Zez-Kai Ell had been a hypocrite, shying away from a war his own teachings demanded be fought, and Revan had been a coward, wasting the lives of his followers so he himself could reap the rewards. As far as Cain was concerned, labour in the Temple where he grew up was a small purpose, but it was not a false purpose.

His hand left the hilt as his reflection ceased - thinking about the past was only causing him nothing but hurt and regret. He was having enough troubles dealing with the daily fatigue and stress that came with this job, and to add on unnecessary emotional pain was always enough to send him spiralling into a pit of melodramatic despair, which it did as Cain sent files, documents and meaningless scraps of paper to the floor in a momentary lapse of control. He did this daily, at different times, but always at least once, and this was understandable. He was a joke within the Temple. He should have been offered aid and tranquillity, but instead he was cast aside, left to rot working a desk in the lobby. A Jedi only in title, Cain was left at that desk as a warning, a reminder of what happened to those who let themselves be 'corrupted', which was ludicrous. Cain had lived, truly lived for the first time in his life in those wars, and instead of being crowned a hero he was abandoned by his 'Master', Revan, and rejected by the Jedi. The Council still maintained the outright lie that no Jedi had paid for their crimes from the wars - a lie that, to them, may as well be fact. A fallen Jedi is no Jedi at all in their eyes, and a fallen Jedi can never truly pay for his 'crimes', so, as another bead of sweat fell from his frustrated brow, Fallen Jedi Cain immaturely knocked papers and files off his desk with a gesture of his hand.

His concealed rage would have continued to vent in the form of paper-abuse for a while, as his fatigue and suppressed emotional pain built up in turn, had she not walked into the lobby. She had asked for a Jedi, and had most likely missed the sarcastic tone of the little bastard who'd told her Cain was a 'Jedi.' When he looked up from the mess he was making of his desk, she stood before him, so self-contained in her beauty. The force did not flow strongly through this woman, but what did flow through came out...changed.

Afterwards, he swept through the Temple, telling everyone he met of this woman, this Sith, who had simply walked in and handed him her lightsaber and mask, confident that she would be accepted where Cain himself had not.

Nahila enters through the bronze doors into the room where Corev Saal stands admiring a picture of some past Jedi.

"Ah Corev, I am so happy to see you, especially today. As you can imagine, things have been a bit...hectic." She takes her seat behind the desk.

He looks at his old friend for a minute before responding, "The Sith seem stronger than anything we could have imagined, so I could see why you would be a little busy."

Nahila rests her elbows on her desk and looks at him, "We've lost so many of our own to them, so many who left to join the Sith, and then finally the reverse happens, one Sith abandons their own to join us and I find no comfort in it at all."

He remembers the strange woman he saw when he had first entered the temple. One of the weirdest moments in his long life. "Ah, yes the Sith I saw in the lobby. There is something odd about that one."

"Oh indeed there is. What she did is proof enough of that."

"She isn't very strong in the Force. How did she survive among the Sith?"

"That's one of the reasons I kept you waiting so long--I've been finding out as much about her as I possibly can since she arrived. The more I know about her, the stranger she becomes. She has never, so far as I know, fought a single battle against anyone, Sith or Jedi, and yet her following is very large, a whole planetary base and a small star fleet."

He is shocked and his face clearly shows it as he moves closer to the desk. "How? The Sith function on battle, they fight for everything. How would she have risen so high without having to fight to get there? That isn't very Sith-like."

She sits forward more in her chair and looks at him, "It goes beyond that even. The Sith are very competitive, we know that, every Sith tries to kill the one above them but her forces are loyal to her."

"Loyal is not a word I word use to describe any Sith. That is odd indeed. Do you have any idea how she inspires such loyalty in her followers?" His curiosity is spiked, this could be some sort of technique taught to her.

"Her base stands ready, but no one has stepped forward to claim it. When another Sith Lord tried to take control of it, they defended it in her name! They are waiting for her to return! I have never heard of such a thing!"

He shakes his head, "Nor have I."

"Battle Meditiation could create such an effect, but not at such a distance, and not for such a long time, nor does she show any signs of having such power."

He thinks for a moment about the possibility. "I have seen Battle Meditation work on people. It inspires people to keep fighting, gives them confidence. It also causes your enemies to lose hope. I have never seen it cause anyone's followers to admire them so much..."

She shakes her head and leans back in her chair, "I have no explanation for it. Old friend, I have a favor to ask."

He raises his eyebrows, "A favor?"

"If I keep her locked up in solitary confinement with a neural restriction collar on her, I will never find out what she is up to. Eventually, we will need to let her act. She says that she has come to be redeemed, to return to the Light, and perhaps that is true but I have my doubts, as you might well expect."

He shakes his head, "I have not heard of a Sith of her standing ever returning to the Light."

She sighs, "And yet these days we accept that even the greatest Jedi fall to the dark. Has this war made such pessimists of us, I wonder? As you said though, she is like no other Sith--perhaps she is telling the truth. I am both more hopeful and more suspicious of her than I have ever been of any potential convert."

He thinks on it a moment, thinking back on what he had seen of this Darth Erzebet. "I suppose it is possible that she means what she says, but it is also possible this is some sort of trick."

"Exactly. I will assign one of the Jedi Masters to her, to try to determine why she is here, and to guide her back to the Light if such a thing is possible."

"And what is my part in this?"

"She will not know that you were ever a Jedi. Even I, who was a padawan with you, cannot feel the Force moving in you, though I know that it does, strongly. I want you to be her guard. She will think you have no strength in the Force, so she will either make you her target or she will ignore you. If she is trying some sort of trick, that is. If she is sincere, given her position within the Sith, they will certainly try to kill her. If they do, she will need a bodyguard and again, the Sith will ignore you or strike you first. Either way, the surprise should work to our advantage. Will you do this for me, old friend?"

He smiles, "Your plan makes sense. I will do it but not just because of the sense your plan makes, I am also curious to find out how she does what she does. Finding out how she inspires loyalty could be very beneficial."

"Yes, I agree. But do not be too curious. I do not want you to find out first-hand how it is she draws others too her. I know that others have called you disloyal but I know better, I know that--"

"My leaving the Jedi Order was not disloyal it was my choice." He frowns, looking at her intently. That has always been a sore spot with him.

"--you have always been a person who thinks for himself," she continued, giving him a reassuring smile, "and I need that in you most of all. Keep your guard up, and keep your distance."

"I understand that caution is needed around her, she is Sith after all. I will be careful."

She smiles with relief on her face. "Good. The Republic has of course been all over me with questions about her, about what she is doing here. Since you have been an officer with their forces, I will tell them that I have assigned you to her as their liaison."

"Yes, that also eliminates suspicion of why I would be assigned as her guard and not another Jedi."

"Oh, there will be a Jedi assigned to her as well. He will be both her guard and her teacher, if she is honest in her desire for redemption." She pauses for a moment before continuing, "She does not seem very strong in the Force nor do I feel the Dark Side working strongly within her. The strength of passion I usually find in the Sith is lacking in her. She is serene as any Jedi Master."

"My own ability shows that you should not place all your trust in what you sense."

"That may be the truest thing I have heard said today."

He frowns again, "We can only hope that she is telling the truth and this does not cost the Jedi more then they can spare."

Nahila frowns too, "You are too right--the Jedi cannot spare anything at all. This war has almost destroyed us, and though Revan has gone, still every day costs us more."

He looks out the window, his frown becomes more worried. "I fear this war will cost the Jedi dearly, but if we play our cards right we may just make it out of this."

A smile returns to her face as his comment brings back memories, "I was always terrible at Pazaak, but as I recall, you were an excellent player, so I will leave this particular card in your hands then." She gets up out of her chair. "I'm afraid I must go. There is a Senator waiting to talk to me, or lecture me--you know how they are."

"Indeed I do." He raises one eyebrow in both irritation and amusement.

"He will want to know what I am doing about this. I am glad to be able to tell him that I have assigned both a powerful Jedi and a decorated Republic soldier to the case. He need not know they are one and the same person."

He laughs looking at her, "I am glad I could talk to you again Nahila. It has been a pleasure."

She returns with a laugh of her own though her laugh is just a little sad. "The pleasure has been all mine, Corev, and someday perhaps we can visit for no other reason than the enjoyment of one another's company. But this day is not that day, so I must go."

"You are right, I will leave you now." He stands to leave, but reluctant to go. It has been such a long time since he has seen her.

"The young man at the desk will show you to her. He's taken quite an interest in her. Only natural under the circumstances, since he was the very first to meet her, but make sure his interest does not...increase, will you?"

"I will watch him as well as the others who are in contact with her."

"Thank you. Good-bye, my friend, I am sure I will speak with you later.

"Good-bye I hope we can talk more at a later date." He turns around and walks out of the room, closing the door behind him.


Ythros had heard a Sith had surrendered herself in the temple.

Technically, he shouldn't have, when the masters received the woman they had asked the service personnel to request Ythros' presence for a discussion over the repeated state of his bedding.

Ythros, after a lengthy explanation of why he felt the need to leave bloodstains on his mattresses was making his way back when he almost ran into an excited youth who had witnessed the Sith in transit. After a brief conversation with the somewhat careless Jedi, Ythros made his way to the detention cells.

The Jedi on watch at the detention block saw him coming, and sent a comms for one of the senior Jedi. The 'Scarecrow' had a temper at the best of times, and after an argument over laundry and hearing of a Sith within throttling distance he had an even more impressive scowl than usual.

Not that you would notice, the scars made any expression on that face into a macabre grin or twisted frown... depending on the angle you were looking from.

"Ythros, I see you heard about the prisoner" He began, but was cut off with a look before Ythros spoke.

"Enough Jollen, move aside now" He said slowly.

"I can't Ythros, we don't murder prisoners."

Ythros tilted his head "Murder? I would never kill a prisoner Sith, Jollen, not while i have something as harmless as a knife-point"

The look from the would-be-jailor indicated this was not a suitable response.

"Jollen, I wouldn't kill a prisoner, but i might just knock you out to see her" He said with an amiability at odds with the words spoken.

"Ythros, dont, it's no-"

"Bugger, hand slipped," Ythros said, releasing his neck where he had grabbed his own nerve cluster, he was immune to the pain, Jollen was not, and he passed out.

Ythros stumbled inside, even such a minor effort exerted his ability, and he gathered himself before walking to the cell that contained the odd woman, a paradox in Ythros' mind, both a Sith and a willing prisoner. To Ythros the idea was like keeping a python as a scarf.

"So, You're what's causing such a fuss hereabouts," he said, scanning over the creature.

She stopped combing you her long, black hair with her fingers and regarded him with perfect calm.

"I do wonder why you're here, in my experience Sith don't often wander into temples, but then again in my experience Sith were never very intelligent"

Her smile was gracious, her voice coolly amused. "That has been my experience as well. It's one of the reasons I left."

"I also wonder if you realise that yo-" He began again, but was cut off.

"Pardon me, but where did you get that one?" The Sith asked and pointed to his face.

Ythros stood still "Which what?"

"That scar, on your jawline, it's too deep for anything I know, but also too delicate," she inquired intently.

Ythros felt the wound. "Laser edged scalpel, I got into a fight with a surgeon who wanted to stick a transmitter into my heart, where I couldn't pull it out like the last one. In my pelvic cavity." He said with almost a hint of pride.

"And the surgeon?" she continued.

"He stabbed me in the arm, and then bled to death of the wound," Ythros replied, frustrated at losing control of the exchange.

For once the woman seemed interested, her eyes opening just a fraction wider and she leaned just a millimeter forward. She hid it well, and Ythros missed it completely, but there was something almost like wonder in her voice when she replied;

"How extraordinary you are."

Nahila was looking out the window at the pale yellow sunshine, wishing she were walking around outside rather than sitting behind her desk, when Ketan knocked politely on the partially open door.

"Ketan! Thank you for coming. Please, have a seat." She gestured towards a chair and Ketan sat down with a grateful grunt, stretching his long legs out in front of him.

"Long day?" Nahila's legs were much shorter, but she could sympathize.

"Yes," said Ketan with a sigh, "it seems as if the hours are growing."

She sighed in agreement. "Yes it does, and I'm afraid I'm about to make your day a bit longer. You have heard about our new guest?"

"Yes. Quite odd." His face and voice were unreadable. He could have been talking about unusual weather.

"I don't know what to make of her." The Sith woman, oh, she was a nightmare already, and she hadn't even done anything yet.

"From the file I read, it doesn't seem to piece together well." Trust Ketan to stick to facts in the midst of uncertainty.

"I want to believe that she truly wishes to turn to the light..."

"As do I..." Ketan agreed.

"But I am filled with doubts," she shook her head and threw up her hands. "But how is that any different than before she arrived, right? This war..." She sighed again. She sighed a lot these days.

"I have thought long and hard about my previous actions. I don't wish to stand around on this. If she has a chance, I am willing to try." His uncertainty, his self-doubt over his actions, or rather, inaction, never really left him. Nor did his determination to do the right thing, when he thought he knew what it was.

"Good, because that is what I want you to do. Try and find out why she is here. Try to turn her to the Light, even if that was not her purpose."

"I will do my best." He always did his best, which is why she relied on him. "I can only hope the Force will help me find the right path to my goal." So orthodox, though. A little inflexible perhaps. Still, better rigid than soft with this one. She was slippery. Nahila could feel it.

"We have lost so many Jedi to the Sith, perhaps the Force has decided to even the balance just a little. Your dedication to the Light is unquestioned and you have always been careful and deliberate in your actions--we need these with her."

"I know my dedication to the Light is unquestioned, but what about my actions. I know the others hold their tongues. I don't need the force to see what they think." Poor Ketan, still so defensive after all this time.

She soothed him as best she could. "None of our actions go unquestioned anymore There is not a Jedi left who goes undoubted, unquestioned, especially by themselves."

That seemed to reassure him. "Yes. It feels as we are all changing our outlook, for the better or worse. Enough about that, I know my duties now."

She hesitated a moment. "Are you at peace with your decisions in the War?"

"Peace is relative." In other words, no.

"Is it?"

"Yes, I have struggled with what I did or didn't do. I have come to the conclusion that I must learn from my actions, as that is all I can do. If I must face what happened every day as my punishment or gift, so be it. I will make a point not to let it effect my connection with the Force."

Nahila gave him an understanding smile. "I suppose it is better to learn from your actions than learn from your mistakes."

"Yes. I take what little comfort I can in that." He returned her smile just a little.

Her tone became serious. "At any rate, I want you to watch over this Erzabet. Be her mentor. Be her guardian. Be her prison guard." She leaned forward, urgency in her voice. "Guard her, protect her. And guard and protect us."

Ketan shifted uncomfortably in his seat. "Speaking of such, it was mentioned that I will have another with me on this duty. May I ask who it is?" Changing the subject without appearing to change the subject. He was good at that.

"There is a soldier of the Republic who will assist you in watching over her."

"A soldier?" Ketan frowned. "What business does he have in this?"

"He will focus on her safety and yours, while you guide her."

That made him a bit more touchy than she had expected. "You and I both know I am well capable of protecting myself, as I expect she can."

"He is not a Jedi, and so he has little lure to a Sith," she started to explain.

Ketan looked a little offended and slightly stunned. "What? He might not be a immediate target but he will fall to even the slightest trick."

She had not expected him to be so difficult about this. "He has fought the Sith before, and I do not think she will show much interest in him. We have noticed that she pays very little attention to those who are not Jedi, who show no strength in the Force."

That seemed to satisfy his pride. "Very well. I will trust your judgement."

Nahila continued, "Like many Sith, she probably disregards anything she does not perceive as a threat."

"Maybe, but this is no normal Sith," Ketan said. "We cannot use the norm."

"No, she is not like any Sith I have known," she agreed. "She has no strength, she has no combat training, and she lacks the passion that fires most Sith."

"Couldn't she conceal these things with a powerful mind?

"Perhaps," Nahila agreed, "which is why you must be on your guard. I know you meditate daily on the Light, I know this guides you and gives you strength, and you have a knack for anticipating your opponents actions."

"I try." He looked out the window, perhaps like her, wishing he were out walking in the sunlight, rather than talking over dark matters in an office. "Why is it that us Masters never make it known to the Padawans how hard the path of Light is?"

Nahila gave him a rueful look. "We try, but they don't believe us, do they?"

"Never,"said Ketan with a wistful smile.

"Everything is easy when one is young, easy or impossible." She chuckled at the memory of her own triumphs and despairs, and of those of all the younglings who had come to her in this office, in confidence or tears. "So you have no objections then to this soldier?"

"No. I will take this and do the best I can." His tone was cooperative, if not exactly gracious.

Nahila shrugged. "I can't ask for more than that." She leaned over and spoke into the comm. "Corev, would you join us in my office please?"

---To be continued---

Corev stepped through the door a bit quickly. Clearly, he'd been waiting very nearby. "Yes Master Jedi, you have need of me?"

Ketan did not see pleased about this at all. "I did not know this would be a group discussion." It was unlike him to be so irritable. Or rude.

"It is only an introduction." She shot him a look. "Corev, this is Ketan. He will be the guide and guardian to Erzabet in her return to the Light."

Corev extended his hand in greeting. "It is a pleasure to meet you Master Ketan. It will be an honor to work with you."

At least Ketan had the sense to recognize when he was being unreasonable. "Apologies." He shook the other man's hand. "It will be an honor to work with you as well. However, I have not heard much about you. Information seems to be scarce these days." It was Ketan's turn to shoot her a look. Oh, Force. If the Jedi were this troublesome today, what was the Senator going to be like? She didn't even want to think about it."

"I am an officer for the Republic," Coreve explained. "I am on this case to act as their liason."

Nahila added, "They are concerned, as we all are, that this may be some sort of trick."

"I see. I am sorry about the questions, I just am wary of traveling with strangers." Ketan might be more polite now, but he was clearly no less put out. Time to re-phrase things in a different light, so that he didn't feel he was being undermined somehow.

"Corev will aid you in keeping the Senate and military out of your way. They will pester him rather than you. Or me." Let her work the sympathy angle then. Poor her, always chased this way and that by every bureaucrat in the Republic.

That seemed to work. Ketan finally relaxed enough to let out a little chuckle. "Yes, he might be of great use."

Corev's face was as unreadable as his Force presence. "It is no trouble at all Master Jedi, if you don't mind I would like to know a little about you. So I know who I am working with of course." Ketan seemed to responde to his professional tone, though.

"Certainly, I am Ketan Forar, Jedi Master. I have lived in this very temple since the age of 3 and have trained since. As for my connections to the Force and lightsaber, they are private, if you don't mind."

Or not. "Ketan!" she snapped, appalled at his lack of manners. "I do not think Corev would be so impertinent." Unlike Ketan himself.

"What?" he said, as though he hadn't been just as rude as he'd presumed Corev to be.

Corev, however, seemed more amused than offended. "Master Nahila it is fine, I have no interest in those subjects." Which was absolutely the truth, more than Ketan would ever guess.

"I did not mean any offense." Ketan stared at the tips of his boots like a youngling who'd been caught at something.

Nahila couldn't resist a quick wink at Corev. "He understands the Jedi and their ways better than most."

"As I said, I meant no offense."

"The only thing I care about is whether or not he is able to do what is required." So Corev could play Ketan's little game, too.

It worked. Ketan was genuinely apologetic. "Recent events have had me on edge. Please don't take anything I say as an attack on you."

Corev took his little victory in stride. "Not at all. You are cautious which is good."

"As you are calm-tempered." Ketan added.

"Only because I have no reason not to be."

Nahila was relieved. At least the territorial posturing was done. "I assure each of you that I would not have assigned either of you if I had any doubts as to your abilities."

"I meant no offense of course Master Nahila," it was Corev's turn to apologize. "I only wanted to be sure."

Ketan took on an official tone. "Well, it seems we now have a charge to attend to. Is that all Nahila?"

Nahila decided to drive the point home. "As long as you can work together, I have nothing more to say, if you cannot work together I shall have a great deal more to say, but that will be later," and she gave them both a little wink to take the sting off her rebuke.

Ketan smiled and relaxed. Finally. "Very well. A pleasure Nahila."

Her work here was done. Her work elsewhere, not so much. "So, if you don't mind, though Corev will keep the Republic out of your way. I am not so lucky, so I am off to speak to yet another senator."

"The life of a Jedi, always exciting," said Ketan with a sympathetic chuckle.

Nahila sighed. I" begin to regret this woman already. She generates far too much curiosity."

"Of course Master Nahila, I will leave you now. Master Ketan, I assume I am to follow you to our charge?" Corev was doing his officer act, and it was working.

"I pass her into your capable hands. The senator I keep for myself. Lucky me." She rolled her eyes for emphasis.

Ketan responded with his own brisk Jedi act. "Yes, lets see what we have to deal with."

"After you, Master Jedi," said Corev, opening and holding the door for the other two. Oh, he was good. Definitely the right man for the job. As she passed him, he threw her a quick wink. Ah, old friend, it is so nice to have you back.

Once again, Cain was brooding at his desk. The Jedi were supposed to uphold justice, and peace - yet there was none of either to be seen here; that woman, Sith or not, had sought sanctuary and instead a neural disruptor had been clamped around her neck, and Cain was fairly sure that she had been left in solitary confinement. Half-sedated by a fancy collar and left in a cell; a pretty poor excuse for sanctuary. Was that what she had really wanted, though? It seemed like undeniable truth when she herself said it, but now that she was gone, Cain had his doubts.

Admittedly small doubts, but ones that were certainly persistent; Cain's initial suspicion was that the Sith had some form of assault planned, but there would be no logic to this - she was not only weaker in the force than Cain himself was but she came utterly alone, and she must have expected the Jedi to be untrustworthy and dogmatic in their approach when offering the 'redemption' she claimed to be seeking. So, unless she was carrying several thermal detonators on her person then there was little chance of her devastating the Temple. She even gave up her weapon and revealed her allegiance upon entry, which was hardly a sound tactical move if she was planning an assault.

Thus, Cain could not see any validity to his small suspicions, and therefore believed that there were none to be had; there was a woman being kept prisoner for unjustifiable reasons, and it was his duty to demand this situation be resolved...with permission, of course. Cain was hasty but not idiotic, he was not about to gallantly storm the cells and break this Sith out, for that way ended in being stabbed...or thrown in solitary confinement himself. No, Cain was going to very politely request her release, and that required visiting Master Nahila.

Cain did not dislike Nahila on a personal level, but there was certainly a strong amount of resentment that he directed towards her; she represented many of the reasons that Cain worked a desk instead of cutting through swaths of enemies on unknown battlefields. Therefore it was not Nahila that Cain felt contempt towards but rather what she seemed to stand for so rigidly, and this was only reinforced by her treatment of the female Sith he had come to admire.

A few minutes later Cain found himself brooding at someone else's desk; the main counter in the entrance to the Jedi Temple.

"What? No, no I don't have an appointment - why do I even need one? She's a Jedi Master, not a politician, can you please inform Master Nahila that I need to see her?"

A look crossed the young Jedi's face that suggested he was about to dictate a line he must say at least a dozen times a day;

"I will but without an appointment you aren't likely to get in to see her, she is currently conferring with a Senator."

"So I have to wait for her to recover from a senator-induced-coma as well? Could you possibly make me an appointment? For tomorrow?"

"Hmm...Yes, I do believe there's a five minute gap tomorrow morning, is that acceptable?"

"No, acceptable would have been me seeing her within the next hour, but tomorrow morning is at least an outcome that doesn't involve me drawing my lightsaber. I'll be back tomorrow morning."

The walk down to the holding cells was a silent one, which was fine with him. The lightsaber felt heavy in his robes, a reminder of the past. Corev had a slight smile on his face. What about, Ketan didn't really know. They arrived at the detainment section of the temple. He never has had good news in this place and he wasn't going to bet it would change. After a brief word to the Jedi guard they walked through the entryway. The halls were spotless but still held an eerie weight to them. As if the air was standing still, waithing for events to unfold. The pair walked towards the cell area and had another short conversation with the Jedi guard. He seemed a bit off. Something seemed different. Even his connection to the force had trouble sensing what it was.

He continued down to the charge's holding cell. The bright field made a shimmering haze over the woman but that did little to change her beauty. He almost allowed himself to wander in that thought for a second. Almost. No words said and this was already more than he needed now.

"Sith. You have stated that you wish to return to the Light side of the Force. What can you say to make me believe that your word is truth?"

"Nothing." she stated.

"You must have thought through your actions before coming here. Don't you have any idea how to prove this to us?"

"No, I don't. Do you?" This was almost getting annoying.

"You honestly thought it would be a good idea to walk into the temple with no proof of your motives?"

"What proof could I bring?"

"True." She made a valid point. He paused for a moment. "You could inform us on how you achieved your position?"

"How I achieved my position? My biography?" she asked.

Corev entered the conversation with "Not an entire biography merely how you inspired such devotion in your followers."

The Sith laughed softly. "Merely? And what if I don't know?" She had to be lying or at least messing with them. They were getting nowhere.

"That would be quite a thing not to know." It seemed Corev was sharing his thoughts.

" I see you are a soldier, and officer, yes? Tell me, do you know why it is your soldiers follow you?"

"My soldiers follow me because they are told to. For the ones who follow me because it is their choice, probably because they feel I deserve their loyalty"

"Ah, well, I suppose the ones that follow me do so because they feel I deserve their loyalty" She had to be messing with them.

"That is an awful lot of Sith following you because they think you deserve their loyalty. What did you do to inspire their loyalty? I fight well and give commands, what have you done?"

"I command well and give them fights." The Sits said.

"According to the records you haven't fought many battles. It takes more then just a couple for that to happen." Corev said.

She was leading them in circles for sure. He might have to be a bit more direct. "What is it that makes you want to go to the light? You have followers and wealth it seems. What to you seek to achieve?" Ketan was looking for any lead because this trip was as waste of time so far.

"I find that I do not agree with the Sith philosophy. It is ultimately self-defeating. They cannot work together and so, though they may conquer the galaxy, they will never rule it."

"Wouldn't the logical conclusion be to create your own philosophy?" Hopefully this would provoke some information.

"I never had a philosophy to begin with." The woman sidestepped his question again. This was frustrating. How could she be truthful in her want to go to the Light side when she clammed up like this?

"Help me help you. Give me something to work with longer than these 5 word statements. What made you join the sith?"

She gave a sad smile. "Because the Sith have shown me the only kindness I have ever known" This statement pulled at the strings of his heart. This woman was either truthful or insane. Maybe both.

He needed a minute to think with out this. He walked out back into the lobby leaving Corev to his own volition. He needed a plan to deal with this mess. He could see why this looked to be such an odd case, because it was. Ketan sat down in the chairs. They were really here for show. No one ever really waited on their type of prisoners. He needed to get her out of her element. Surprise her so he could get something to work with. He would probably have to get her out of the Temple. He couldn't risk her coming in contact with any of the children. He might not know her powers or reasons but he couldn't do anything stupid. Anything he did would have some risk, big or small. He allowed himself to think a moment about the past that always waited at the back of his mind. Learn from it like he said he had. He got an idea. A risky one but as he said, there was always some chance. He grew adamant in his idea. He was going to have a new Padawan, whether she liked it or not.

Corev sat against the wall with his eyes closed. He did this a lot, meditating when he was alone to center himself. This time he needed it more then any other time in his life.

After leaving Nahila's office, Ketan and Corev had walked down to see the Sith Lady they were now in charge of. Little talking had gone on during the walk down and Corev was fine with that. He still had a slight smile on his face as he followed behind Ketan.

They arrived at the section of the temple where she was being held and a Jedi let them through. They followed the guard and found her in a cell behind the glowing barrier. As Corev looked in at her he noticed she was different. She was still beautiful but more of the ordinary kind, compared to what she had been when he first saw her. She no longer felt weird to him either but he found the source of that when he looked at her neck. Ketan was the first to address her and Corev stayed back listening.

For most of the ensuing conversation, Corev leaned against a wall across from her cell, listening to the Jedi Master and the Sith Lady have their conversation. Her answer to Ketan's first question was surprising to both Ketan himself and Corev. She was calm and collected, more like a Jedi then a Sith but the way she answered her questions could be like a Sith or a Jedi, depending on what her intentions were. Ketan had kept his cool and kept asking questions, trying to get something out of her but she managed to evade giving away her intentions. What shocked Corev the most was how she insisted that she didn't know why she had so many followers or how they were so loyal to her. She said it was just like soldiers following him in the Republic, but he knew that what she did was more then that. Having fought no battles against other Sith or even Jedi, it wasn't possible for her to gain the loyalty of so many people. Then she had added more mystery by saying that she joined the Sith because, "the Sith have shown me the only kindness I have ever known." What could have possibly happened to her to make that true, Corev did not know and it was a little troubling.

"You have five minutes."

"Nahila, now...please. " Cain asked, as nicely as he could, of the Jedi/Receptionist/Fool. He had slowly watched the hours passed until the next morning, and the young Jedi working the front desk seemed to somehow become more anally retentive each time Cain spoke to him.

"Yes, she is expecting you, but as I said, you have five minutes...Master Nahila is exceptionally busy her position demands, and you must not exceed these allocated minutes."

"You know, I'm sure you wouldn't be working this desk if you weren't so...absolutely and utterly damn annoying!" Cain finished, before striding off, with sufficient drama, towards Nahila's office.

Cain took being expected to mean already invited, and felt no need to knock or request entry; on a roll when it came to the melodrama, Cain entered Nahila's office with poorly concealed self-satisfaction, and spoke more to the room he was invading rather than the person he had yet to spot.

"Master, I request that the female prisoner be released...Master Nahila?"

The room appeared to be empty, meaning that Cain's entrance was not only spoilt but wasted, which was then coupled with embarrassment as Nahila's voice traveled towards the back of his head - Cain had not only foregone formality but faced the wrong direction as he did so.

"It is common courtesy to knock before you enter, Padawan Cain."

Cain's cheeks reddened ever so slightly as he turned to Master Nahila, before ignoring his evident mistake (or rather, mistakes) and repeated himself;

"Master Nahila, I would liked to request that Erzabet be released."

Nahila raised an eyebrow - whether in intrigue or amusement Cain could not tell, before she replied;

"And why would you like to have her released?"

Clearing his throat, Cain began; "A woman seeking sanctuary entered those doors, Sith or not - she identified herself, knowing the prejudice she would face, and gave up her only weapon without hesitation."

He concentrated for a moment - if he could not eloquently make this point, then he was wasting his time;

"She requests the chance for redemption, and instead a Neural Disruptor is clamped around her neck, and she is left in a cell - a deceptively comfortable cell, but still a prison. She has no weapons, no apparent means of communication with any Sith force waiting to strike, and the Neural Disruptor, even on a low setting, will be inhibiting any use of the Force she could muster. There is no possible way she could be planning an assault - she is here of her own free will, why steal this privilege she entered with?"

"Privilege? I'm not sure what you are getting at there, but the best-laid trap is the one that appears to carry no risk. Perhaps she is what you say. But perhaps she is a very, very clever trap. The fact that she has amassed such a following despite her apparent weakness gives us ample reason to believe that she is not merely what she seems. And her followers in the Sith are still waiting for her to return to them; if they believe she's coming back, I'm inclined to agree with them."

A notable amount of contempt began to enter Cain's voice as he replied; "I am referring, Master, to the privilege of free choice - her free choice to enter here, her choice to surrender, her choice to seek redemption. What choice does she have now? The only thing she didn't give up at the door was taken from her with that Neural Disruptor - she came in here of her own volition, and now that free will has been removed. What possible trap could she be? Unless the Republic has noticed a Sith fleet orbiting Coruscant, then I fail to see the threat she poses - following or not she chose to come here, and if she were to flee back to the Sith then I would not blame her, with the treatment she has received from those that represent the 'Light' side of the force - this is not precautionary, Master Nahila, it is cruelty."

Cain involuntarily winced as Nahila sighed in a way that seemed both irritated yet kind - although to Cain it showed how little an effect his words were having;

"Again, it is in the nature of a trap to appear as something other than a trap.
Surely, if she comes to us with as much goodwill as you believe, she will sympathize with our need for a bit of caution. And really, Cain, how is it that this woman has so captured your...imagination? After such a brief encounter? How did you come to such an understanding of her feelings and motives in such as short time? Finally, consider this: her confinement is as much for her safety as it is for ours."

This was growing futile; Cain was getting ready to give up, and, for the sake of the courtesy he failed to show on the way in, Cain responded only to avoid being rude;

"What trap a weaponless, powerless, debilitated woman could utilize is beyond me - and I doubt she really sympathizes with any kind of person that clamps neural disruptors around the necks of harmless individuals. I do not claim to know her feelings - for all I know she is in fact plotting to bring down this temple...but if she is she must be incredibly stupid, as how she plans an assault on Coruscant with no weapons, no fleet and no power is beyond me. Unless you know something I do not, then there is no way you can believe her to be capable of destroying this place, either. She is confined not because of any threat - because she is no threat to this Temple unless she has 20 thermal detonators stashed somewhere, or upon entry you failed to have her searched for any means of communication with the Sith. The truth is you would rather she suffer the neural disruptor than any Master be inconvenienced with redeeming something as 'disgusting' as a Sith."

Cain certainly expected, may have even hoped that Nahila would snap at him, but if anything, her tone became even more gentle and understanding. Condescendingly so.

"As you said, for all you know, she is plotting to bring down the temple, and a great deal more besides. If she is, rather than being very stupid, she may in fact be exceedingly clever, and very skilled. It is possible, you know, to conceal one's Force sensitivity, and she may have come armed with something much more powerful than detonators. She may have come armed with ideas. The Jedi are fractured. We are at war with each other. Someone skillful in spreading dissent could be much more dangerous to us now than any orbiting fleet. And the truth is, a Master has been 'inconvenienced' with redeeming her. His name is Master Ketan, and if you are so concerned with her acceptance and well-being, I suggest you talk to him."

"Fine, from one Master to another, then - I'm tired of waiting, however; by the time I get to someone who will listen to me she'll have conveniently 'disappeared'."

"Your five minutes are up, Padawan."

"...I hate this place."

Nahila watched Cain storm out of the room. Oh, the pity! So misunderstood! So unappreciated! So enamored with his own dramatic flair she wanted to pour a glass of water over his head. He was probably stomping back to his room and throwing himself down on his bed right now. She'd never minded the Jedi injunction against having a family, and she'd never had a padawan of her own, mainly because she didn't particularly like children, especially when they were almost 30 years old. She didn't know whether to blame Cain's old master for this or pity him.

Still, there was the question, why did he care about this Erzabet so much? He'd seen the woman all of, what, 5 minutes? Maybe 10? She was pretty enough, but really, a Jedi shouldn't allow such things to turn his head. Of course, a Jedi shouldn't go stomping out of people's offices in a raging sulk. Cain was bored, yes, and the woman had the charm of novelty, and she doubtless appealed to his sense of gallantry. He couldn't resist the opportunity to fight in defense of the helpless, as witnessed by his running off to the wars, but really, no one with the word "Darth" in their name was truly defenseless. And of course, Nahila had received nothing but trouble and pushback from Cain since that day she accepted him back. Great Force, but she'd had to battle the council tooth and nail to get him that seat at the desk, and for what? "I hate this place..." Well, you aren't chained to that desk, you know, and it is right in front of the door. Of course, she couldn't do that. The boy was constantly hanging his toes over the edge of the Dark Side as it was.

She might have written it off to a very un-Jedi combination of rebellion and chivalry, but there was also Ythros to consider. All the sympathy she should could not feel for Cain, she could not help but feel for the mangled, suffering creature that had, at one time, been a simple human boy. She'd fought for him too. The council had accused her of misguided pity but it wasn't that. Ythros was a potent weapon and an even more potent example. No apprentice, no padawan, no one ever left Ythros' presence with any romantic ideas about the allure of the Dark Side. He was a tattered rag of a creature, tied around the dead branch of his consuming hatred of the Sith. So it was no surprise that he'd made his way down to the holding cell where Erzabet was kept mere minutes after her arrival.

Nahila watched the security holo again and again. Ythros clearly intended to torture the woman to death. Even with the collar, she could not have failed to sense that, and his appearance alone was enough to make most people recoil in shock. But she had received him with perfect calm and had, with the merest question, turned him aside. Her self-possession was extraordinary. It was almost a pity that Ythros had left the captive Sith to go pursue his usual prey in the wild. She would have liked to observe them together a bit more. Instead, she was left to ponder the encounter. Had he left her because she was not a Sith and thus held no interest? Or because she had managed...something? Ythros was amazingly resistant to any sort of Mind Trick or Persuasion.

She watched more of the security recordings, looking for something, anything, that would give her the key to this woman. There was nothing. Perhaps that was her only clue. Erzabet did nothing. She barely moved at all. There was a viewscreen in her room (cell?--that was no cell, it was nicer than Nahila's own quarters) that served as a window of sorts, and she sat and stared at it for hours. Once an hour, she would get up, walk back and forth in the room, do a set of exercizes and return to her her place watching the screen. The screen itself was not that interesting. It displayed the same city view one could see from one of the better guest rooms, pretty but not entrancing. Once a day, she would bathe, change her clothes, and tend her hair. She never attempted to speak to the guards, except to thank them when they brought her meals. At times, she appeared to meditate. But for the most part, she was as still as a statue.

Perhaps, like Ythros, she had developed a certain single-mindedness, a protective obsessiveness that had allowed her to withstand the brutality of her training with the Sith. She wasn't strong enough in the Force to have survived among them, Nahila knew that in her bones. Strength in the Force? No. Strength in combat? She doubted it. Which left only one other possibility.

Strength of will.

In truth, of the three, that was the one she feared the most.

Checking back in was always fun.

Gabrill, the rather petite Jedi who was on the door, was terrified of Ythros. The little woman was a fantastic judge of character, which made her opinions of Ythros all the more fun to exploit. Because he had a scary character, and she judged this.

That said, there were few padawans or younger Jedi who didn't have a part of their mind frozen with an image of the Scarecrow on their first meeting.

The Temple had seen fit to employ him as an object lesson in 'Dark Side Studies' as he jokingly called it. About twice a year he would randomly and abruptly be greeted with great comradeship by one of the senior Jedi who he barely knew or just plain hated. Always, there was some Padawan behind the Jedi trying not to stare.

When the conversation was over, Ythros would be left to imagine the wonderful little tale of how he ended up with more straight lines on him than a Balkiga board being told to the Padawan around the corner. "Look", the lesson went, "On what we can fall and become"

He wouldn't have minded if he knew the names of the Jedi who would pretend to know him so they could shock some knowledge into the trainees.

But even the Jedi were a little afraid of Ythros.

He was so close to having 'Darth' preceding his name one of the more adventurous teens had scratched it into the name-plate on his door. That was a great day, the boy had turned around straight into Ythros and soiled himself.

But he understood, he was a curio like the Woman in the cells was to him...

Why he had come back. He could not shake the thought of her from his head. Not a hate, nor any form of desire... she was simply a reoccurring thought during his brief hunting bout.

He managed to get Gabrill's eyes to bulge when he walked in. a further double take was elicited by the fact that he was stark naked.

He had come express from his shuttle and he had lost his only robe on his travels. Nothing like the sight of a 6 foot scarred naked man to wake a person up, he reasoned. And he imagined this stagnant little Jedi day-spa could use some waking.

"Hello Gab, im just checking back in, id like to take a quick bath before i see anyone from the council if you don't mind."

He dropped a lightsaber onto the reception desk. its black hilt and skeletal design marked it as a Sith device.

"I imagine there are proceeding for dealing with this kind of thing, Gab, i treasure my ignorance on them"

Leaving the stunned door-jedi he made his way back to his room, or tried too. Seeing an opportunity, a newly promoted Knight saw fit to educate his padawan...

Well, at least for once the blasted child wasn't staring at his face.

Nothing untoward though. It wasn't as if he had any genitalia left to look at.

Nahila could have summoned him to her office like any other Jedi but Ythros wasn't any other Jedi, and besides, he tended to leave little blood drips around and she'd just gotten a new carpet. Not that he was generally irritated into self-injury by her, but getting past her assistant never failed to set him off. Helim was very good at his job, which meant that he was very, very good at stonewalling people who wanted to see her. Even when they were invited, Helim would stop them and insist on check-in and every single bit of protocol. She was deeply grateful to him for this. Those minutes created by his skillful delays were often the only minutes she had to herself from one end of the day to the other. She'd long ago given up on the concept of regular meals, but she still had to pee once in a while. The fact that Ythros would insist on walking right into her office and the fact Helim would not back down before the Scarecrow's horror show glare frequently resulted in blood. Occasionally for both of them.

But instead, today she went to intercept him on his way to the detention block. He'd come back, caused a scene (which, to be honest, amused rather than shocked her) and then made his way down to stare at the Sith again. She was almost inclined to let him. They were very interesting together and she was sure the holo recordings from the security cameras would prove enlightening. Once in a while, though, it was good to remind him that he was still answerable for his actions in this place. Specifically, he was answerable to her.

As he rounded the corner to the guard station, clearly expecting to bully past the guards, he found her instead, seated on one of the guard's stools, right in front of the door.

"Hello, Ythros, I heard you were back. Made quite a stir. How in the name of the Force did you manage to lose all your clothes?" Her tone to him was affectionate, genuinely so, which always seemed to unnerve him just a little. She liked unnerving people, just as he did, and took a certain vicarious pleasure in the whispering ripples of shock he generated everywhere he went.

"What are you doing here?" His voice was as ragged as his face. She'd heard that prolonged screaming could scar the vocal chords. From what she understood of his past, she was amazed the damage hadn't rendered him mute.

"Funny, I was about to ask you that." She held his gaze and he blinked. Score one for her.

He scowled. She'd learned his face over the years and that was definitely a scowl. "I've come for the Sith."

"But she isn't a Sith, not any more."

"So she says."

"Yes," Nahila agreed, "so she does say, and we are strongly considering the possibility that she is telling the truth."

"Sith lie."

"True, which is why she is in the detention block. And while we are determining whether or not she is telling the truth, she is not a Sith, she is a prisoner." She stood to look directly into his eyes, "And the Jedi do not kill their prisoners."

"You can't stop me from seeing her."

"Nor do I intend to try. But I will ask you this. Why do you want to see her?"

He had no answer. She stood, eyes locked with his, until he spun on his heel and strode away. The sharp sounds of his bootheels striking the floor did not conceal the snap of his finger breaking. She winced at the sound.

The medical staff would be in her office complaining about him within the hour. She sat back down on the stool, leaned back against the wall, closed her eyes, and savored the quiet. This Erzabet brought trouble. Nahila didn't need to be gifted with Shatterpoint to see that.

If wills were solid objects the bitches would be a bastion.

She treated him like some overblown bully who she could simply ignore! He was not overblown...

But she was right on one thing... he didn't know why he wanted to see the Sith. He couldn't kill her, and couldn't stand her... Perhaps that was the reason... she was something that did not fit into his worldview and for that reason was an insatiable enigma.

A Sith.

He remembered the Hunt he had just been on, following a Testosterone Fueled Saber-Master through the under-halls of an ancient spire city.

He had been a brute. Ythros lurked in the shadows and the terrified behemoth thought that if he charged his fears they would melt before his blade. Ythros was fear that fought back.

The pair had dueled for almost an hour, in second long exchanges punctuated by bouts of stalking, before Ythros had slid a knife under his guard and bled out his ribcage. Not a drop of his own blood spilled. Nahila would have been proud.

Ythros was making up for lost time.

Knives danced in expert patterns around his skin, weaving an intricate tapestry on his torso, gentle curves at odds with his other short scars and war-trophies. He had taken the design off the tattoos on the Sith he had killed in those dark halls. He had never scarred himself in any pattern before, but now the opportunity for something more imaginative had arisen.

He wondered if he should one day seek actual tattoos, the designs on that flesh had intrigued him. He had found references to them in the Jedi library to which he did not have full access.

He found a way in, however. They were not a Sith design, belonging to a tribe of canopy dwelling humanoids. With all relation to the foe aside, he had seen fit to mark them on his flesh.

It was a meditation. A preparation. Sinking into the warm oblivion of ritual he let out stress and pain, tension and rage.

It was a good place.

He finished and washed himself, despite his progress in avoiding serious self-harm, his force power had failed to return in any fashion but his eternal half-cursed Wound affinity.

But he was determined to be more than just a product of his circumstances, he was making progress on that note, too... until that Sith had shown up... And now he felt old rages rekindled... past wounds flared in pain again and he found all the careful meditation and relaxation he had accumulated slip away...

The Sith was unmaking him again, and he had to know why.

Tossing on an old robe, he made his way down to the cells, She did say she would not stop him... oh... but she had posted a guard again.

"Hello..." He sought for a name... anything... this time he had to try and be civil.
"Johanas" The man said, steely gazed.
"Right... How... Are... You?" Ythros said... fists clenching and unclenching... this was not his area of expertise.
"Fine" Said the unhelpful Johanas

The two simply stood, Johanas silent by his personality, Ythros immobilized by his utter failure at all things to do with social convention.

In the end Ythros broke, utterly lost in this new and terrifying world of conversational syntax where he couldn't scowl.

"Im going to see the prisoner" He said
"Right" Said the monosyllabic Johanas
"Thats it?" Ythros almost yelled
"Yes" Said Johanas, ever the philosopher

Ythros scowled again after passing him, Nahila had probably put the bastard there just to spite him.


And there she was, immobile as ever.


And he was lost, he had no idea why he had desired to come here, what curiosity he had hoped to indulge... but for some reason the image of the woman dominated his thoughts... like a song in his head or an ache in his bones...

But for the life of him he had no idea why. He had no desire to harm her he could fulfill, no attraction, only a curiosity... but for what?.

She watched him as if he was a new type of wall.

Screw conversation, staring contests were nothing to a man who had once had his eyeballs branded, and he had time to kill.

Cain was happy.

This was not unheard of.

It would be more accurate to say that Cain was quite content, but happy sufficed, and thus, Cain was happy.

Cain was happy for a reason: he had received a note - a very, very impersonal note, informing him that he, amongst many others, now had permission to visit Erzabet. This, in essence, was both the cause of the aforementioned happiness, but also a great deal of anxiety.

Cain had, in her absence, placed this woman on a pedestal so high in his mind that he could barely see the person beyond the reverence he gave her. To actually see her in person seemed almost...wrong, as if it would defile this empress he had constructed in his own mind. Cain spent roughly six seconds debating it, and then took off in the direction of the holding cells. Cain was not a philosopher by nature.

As Cain walked down the corridor that lead to Erzabet's cell, he passed Ythros. Cain has never really grasped the concept of Ythros, never really understood the being that was an embodiment of all things pain. Therefore Cain tried not to think about the man made of scar tissue as he passed him and entered the cell, and sat, cross legged, on front of the force-field, face locked onto the floor.

Erzabet, who sat on the far side of the bed, considered Cain for a moment, tipping her head to the side with the same slight, amused smile as when they met.


He shifted awkwardly on the hard stone, and muttered a reply, "I'm allowed to come in here, now."

She raised an eyebrow ever so slightly, still amused. "Ah, well, I suppose that explains your presence, then. The scarred man, do you know him?"

Cain raised his head, still without eye contact, "Yes, I know of him. I don't know what is beneath the scars, but I know of Ythros. He is confusing."

"Yes he is. He stared at me for hours and said nothing."

"I do not think he is used to...words. It is not hard to see he deals in blood, not emotion. He enjoys warfare - that much I know, and I respect that."

"Do you? And do you also deal in blood rather than emotion?"

Cain frowned, and considered - he could not tell if she was mocking him or not, and chose to be honest. "During the Mandalorian Wars, I tried to bring both warfare and emotion to the front lines, although I seem to have lost them both now. When I was at war, I was happy, but that was too long ago now."

"Happy in the war? That is not what I understand of the Jedi. Why did you leave?"

"There was...a conflict, of opinions. These halls are empty compared to what they were. We did not leave the war, it, and Revan, left us."

A look of contempt crossed Cain's face as he continued. "It is now fought in secrecy, on paper and through subterfuge. The war is internal now, and that is why none have returned. Even if the Jedi were still what they were, they would not be accepted. The Revanchists have been replaced with politicians. There is no one to fight now that the Mandalorians are all but gone, so I deal in nothing."

"No one to fight? What of the Sith? Surely their warfare is more than paper?"

Cain laughed at this. "What Sith? Even they seem content to fight each other more than us. You are the first 'Sith' I have seen since Malachor, so if there are Sith to fight, they have not presented themselves to me. There are those fortunate enough to be combating that threat. But I am not one of them...I should be, but I am not."

Erzabet rose a moment, and moved closer to the force-field before sitting again; "Why not?"

Cain clenched his fists; "Because the Jedi Council has ordained that I have clearly had too much of war and would be better suited working a desk. It is amazing that they even let me keep my lightsaber, and my armour has not been worn in far too long. It is shameful, to both me and them, that I am left here to file reports and document meaningless events, in a job that does not even have a title. I should be cutting swaths through the front lines of any enemy that threatens us, not stuck in a lobby."

"You should be careful, Jedi. You talk like a Sith. Believe me, I know."

This was offensive to Cain, but he tried not to show this. How successful he was, he could not say, but he kept his reply calm and considerate.

"Not at all. The purpose of a Jedi is to preserve justice - that is the fundamental basis of civilization. It cannot stand without justice and order, and to preserve that we need peace. We cannot have peace with enemies hounding us. I am no philosopher, however - I just point my weapon where I am told."

Cain no longer felt this was true - in her presence he felt as if his opinion did matter. She listened to him and no one had listened to Cain's opinion in a long time now.

Whether Erzabet saw this or not, she certainly seemed pleased with his words. She smiled and she seemed almost teasing in her reply. "You speak of peace but long for war--are you sure you are a Jedi?"

Cain tried to consider this, but was interrupted.

"Peace through Strength," she said, "Strength through Conflict?"

And, again, before he could reply,

"Is Peace a lie, Jedi?"

And Cain did not know - at least, not at first. It took several moments under her gaze before he could even think straight, let alone formulate a reply, and when he did, it was far less reserved and calm than he had wished.

"No, no, it is not - it is just...far off. Waiting, for...unification? I am a Jedi - it is them, the pretenders, those that would rather wield a pen than a lightsaber, those that took me, and saw me for what I was - a guardian, a warrior - and caged me in that lobby. Not because of any battle, or war, or skirmish - they envied me, because whilst I was helping to destroy the Mandalorian threat, protecting the innocent, they were fretting behind their desks, still deciding whether or not to let the entire galaxy fall under tyranny. They saw that I, and the entire Revanchist Movement, were living lives that they were afraid to consider, and so they swept me under the carpet, too terrible a sight to behold for the bureaucrats."

He paused. He would have spat if he had not been in her presence, and his fists were still clenched tight. Taking a deep breath, he relaxed his body and tried to center himself as he continued.

"I am a Jedi. But I am also a realist. Strength is required to maintain order and preserve unity, yes, and conflict is the easiest, simplest way of doing so. It is not the only way, but as much as the Council would deny, conflict is, and has always been, our way - righteous, justified conflict. This order is descended from what became strong peacekeepers and guardians, and I adhere to that tradition. We inspire those that cannot fight, we fill them with awe, and we have a responsibility to protect these people. Conflict against the Mandalorians was past necessary, it was demanded, utterly required by the loss of life. I am a Jedi, I have strength, and I will use that to strive for the peace that is still so very far off, whether these pathetic bureaucrats agree with me or not."

Erzabet had stayed utterly calm, still and collected despite Cain's admittedly spiteful outburst.

"Then why do you still serve them? I understand many have left the order. Why do you stay?"

Cain's eyes fell to the floor again. "Because...because for all my strength, I am still weak. There is nothing for me out there, and I still hold hope that there is a chance, a small chance, but a chance nonetheless that the Council will stop this gradual decline. I am too lost for the Jedi, but I will never fall into the utter darkness they fear - I will get my hands dirty, but I will never become the evil they warn against, and therefore I cannot join the Sith. I am in between both, and there is no organization of exiles, no order of fallen Jedi, and I am far from a leader...I have no where else to go."

When she replied, Erzabet's tone was sympathetic, so much so that Cain felt compelled to turn his head high, to make eye contact.

"I understand. Truly."

Cain looked at the force-field and chuckled slightly. "Yes, I guess you do...why are you here? Really?"

A sad smile turned across Erzabet's mouth. "Because I am weak, because there is nothing for me among the Sith, I have gotten my hands dirty, but I can never surrender to the destruction they worship, and therefore cannot remain among the Sith. I am in between both, and there is no organization of exiles, no order of repentant Sith...I have nowhere else to go."

Maintaining eye contact for the first time since entering, Cain pondered this, and surprised himself with his own reply, "There could be. You could make one. There are certainly enough fallen Jedi out there. It is...conceivable."

She nodded. "Perhaps. I tried to create a different path among the Sith, a path of unity rather than conflict. I did not fail--rather, I was too successful, and drew the attention of other Sith Lords. I became a danger to my people, so I had to leave them. You are not the only one in between the two orders. There are many such among the Sith. I simply welcomed them. I gave them a place and, I hope, a purpose. To find strength in unity rather than conflict. Instead of the Rule of Two, we acted as one. I thought the Jedi would perhaps be sympathetic, but I think they only seek to satisfy themselves as to the threat I pose to them, not to understand."

"Then why do you stay? If they are not what you thought, why remain?"

She laughed, and gestured towards the force-field, "I have been persuaded to accept their hospitality for a while longer..." Her face turned far more serious before she added, "And no one leaves the Sith and lives. My life is forfeit if I leave this place."

Cain rose, and, as he turned, muttered back to Erzabet,

"Not if you leave with the right people."

Corev opens his eyes to stare at the wall across from him. It is dark in the room which means he has been meditating for a few hours at least. He rises to his feet and groans at the pain in his legs, he isn't as young as he used to be. Using the Force to flick on the light switch he walks over to the closet and puts on his uniform. As he walks out of the room, he turns off the light and shuts the door.

He makes his way down the illuminated hallway to the turbo lift and pushes the button for the floor where the Jedi kept their 'special' prisoners. The lift descends and after a couple of seconds it beeps indicating that he has reached the right floor and he exits. It is late and few people roam the halls of the Jedi temple. The few that do would not be on this level however. This level is reserved for the Sith prisoners the Jedi captured and brought to the temple. It has been empty for a long time, right up until the strange Sith Lady gave herself up to the Jedi. Now the level contains her and the few guards that are assigned to her cell. Corev walks down the marble hallway, his footsteps breaking the silence that is usually on this level. He arrives at the desk where a bored Jedi stands guard. "Hello Master Jedi. I would like to see the prisoner."

"Could I see your credentials?"

"Certainly." He hands them across the counter to the Jedi.

The Jedi looks them over before nodding, "Corev Saal. Republic Officer. Your name is here. Please follow me."

The guard presses a button on the door. It hisses open and the Jedi signals for Corev to go in. "I'll be out here if you need me."

He walks over to her cell and looks past the glowing barrier in between them. She is awake and turns to look at him as he approaches. "Hello. I came down to see if you were comfortable."

She smiles slightly, seeming surprised that he would show concern for her. "Yes, very. Thank you." She pauses before continuing, "You must have been very concerned about my comfort, if it cost you your night's sleep."

"Oh it is not the only thing that was keeping me awake."

"Really?" She raises an eyebrow. "Do you have a great many worries?"

He sighs, "Of late, yes I do. What about you? Shouldn't you be asleep?"

"I do not sleep." Her face remains neutral as she says this. She was merely stating a fact.

His face clearly shows his surprise and curiosity, "You do not sleep? How do you function?"

"I meditate instead."

He himself meditates a lot and he knows it is no substitute for sleep. "Meditation can't possibly give you what sleep would."

"No it does not. It gives me no dreams."

He raises an eyebrow. "No dreams? You do not want dreams?"

"No. No dreams. No nightmares."

There is a slight pause before he answers, "You have a lot of nightmares?"

"Only when I sleep."

Deciding to change the subject he says, "Earlier you said the Sith showed you the only kindness you ever knew. What did you mean by that?"

"I was a slave. They freed me and showed me I need never be a slave again."

"Why would the Sith free you?" He has never heard of the Sith showing compassion to slaves.

"Because I demonstrated my strength in the Force. And because I used it to kill my master."

"That would certainly draw the Sith. But I overheard some Jedi mention you were not strong in the Force. Why would the Sith be interested?" It was just like the Sith to only do it for the reward but how much of a reward was she, what made her so special?

"The Sith know that strong emotion increases one's power in the Force.

Through passion, I gain strength.
Through strength, I gain power.
Through power, I gain victory.
Through victory, my chains are broken.
The Force shall free me.

and it did. In that moment, the Force, and the Sith, freed me. In that moment, my emotions were very, very strong."

"I see. How did you rise so high then? Your emotions could not always be as strong as they were at that moment." She truly is a curious person.

"No, that is true, but I was taught subtlety as well as strength. Appetite for power, strength through pain, victory by cunning--these are things the Sith teach all their students."

Her answer isn't really the answer he wants. He feels there was more to it then she is telling him. "You must be very cunning indeed to gain the loyal support of so many."

"Cunning to conceal the weakness, perhaps. I merely saw a lack in the Sith, in their philosophy, and filled it."

"And these Sith following you were willing to follow you just because of this?" This can't be all of it, it can't be this simple.

"They too saw the lack, and the opportunity it created. And the protection offered by the solution to this failure of the Sith teachings."

"You say the Sith teachings were lacking. How so?"

Her voice drops with disapproval as she explains, "The Sith compete endlessly. Every Sith seeks to kill the one above them, to take their place. This constant strife, this constant turmoil, weakens them. You see it even now. When they could be taking the Galaxy by storm, instead they waste their strength fighting among themselves. Even if they were direct their bloodlust at the Republic rather than each other, even then, they would fail. To rule is to control. Control requires order. Conflict creates disorder. The Sith may conquer the Galaxy, but they will never rule it. The Jedi know better. As diminished as you are, you understand that you must maintain order. You must cooperate or fail. Revan understood that. He unified the Sith. But he is gone and they have fallen into chaos as the Republic slowly rebuilds its strength."

He considers this "I am no Jedi. However you do remind me of a Jedi in some ways. I expected a Sith to be so full of--" he pauses trying to think of what to say, "--well, emotions."

"And I have no passion? Perhaps this is the source of my weakness. But then, I am no longer a Sith. So passion is no longer my ally, if it ever truly was."

"You play your words like a Jedi, or maybe a very cunning Sith.."

"They are not so different," she says, "the Jedi and the Sith. Dark, Light, Sith, Jedi--two sides of the same coin."

He looks at her questioningly, "Are they the same?"

"The Force is the same. Every planet is lit upon one side and dark on the other. When the sun sets, are you on a different planet?"

"No but the conditions are certainly changed."

"They change and change back. Some planets, some moons, do not turn--one side is always light, one always dark. These worlds have no life. The Jedi try to stop their planet from turning and fail. This is their strength. The Sith try to stop their planet turning and succeed. This is their weakness."

He takes a deep breath and stretched. "You have some interesting views, but unlike you I need to get some sleep. Perhaps we can continue our conversation later?" He needs some time to think over what she had said.

"I would enjoy that very much. Sleep well." She pauses, seeming to consider her next words "Sweet dreams," and then turns away from him.

He lingers for a moment before saying, "Goodbye," and walking away from her, back towards his room.

Erzabet sits in her cell with the lights on. The lights are always on because they were on when she arrived. If they had never turned on the lights, it would be dark now. Light and Dark are unimportant. Sleeping and Waking are important. Stillness and Movement are important, Visible and Invisible. Doll and Woman. Face or Mirror. The Force has no role in this. If she could use it, if she did not wear the collar, these would be easier, more absolute in her command, but she learned these things before she learned the use of the Force, and she remembers everything she learns.

Visible or not is beyond her chosing. There is a camera that sees her wherever she goes and it does not care whether there is light, no more than she does. It is better to be Still. It is better to be a Doll. So she sits on the bed, like a toy left in a bedroom when a child is at school. Like a doll, if she were to lay down, her eyes would close. Sleep. She does not sleep, so she sits. She had a doll once. She left it on her bed and never came back for it. Such is the fate of dolls.

There is a clock here, which is a little strange. As a Doll, she in unaccustomed to time. There is only Now and Now and Now and Now, except when the little bell in the clock chimes the hour. Then for a short time, she is a person almost. She walks back and forth, relieving the tension of her muscles, the stiffness of her joints. She did not realize, before she was trained, that being Still was effort. The body slowly bends to the law of gravity. The muscles relax. The tip in their joints. Balance shifts. Such things are movement, slight but enough. To be Still is to refuse all this, to feel the strength of a planet pulling at her and refuse it.

Four times a day, to the chime of the clock, she uses the refresher. Once a day, she bathes and grooms her hair. Then she returns to the edge of the bed, and to Now and Now until the clock chimes and for a little while she moves again.

There is a person outside the cell who is like the clock. He comes, he looks at her for a moment, then returns to his chair and his Now and is still too. But he is not very good at it.

In the Now before (that too was a Now, but not this Now), a man came to see her. He had no face and therefore no desire for a Mirror, so she gave him her Face but he had no desire for that either. He was not Still. He writhed and burned like a flame, but could find no fuel in her and so he left.

In the Now before, two men came and looked at her. One came forward and the other stayed back. The one who came forward sought a Mirror and found it. The other who stayed back sought a Face and glimpsed one before the first man resumed turning this way and that before his own reflection. The first man could neither admire nor condemn what he saw. He became disappointed and left, and the other man followed.

In the Now before, the faceless man returned. He brought his face with him but refused to put it on. She remained Still, her surface unmarred by a single ripple. He sat in a Now of his own, a faceless man before a Mirror. What he saw there, she did not know. He left. He would come back. She would wait.

In the Now before, another man came while she sat upon the bed, Still. He sat upon the floor and could not be still. He sought a Mirror but could not look into it at first. At last he looked, fell in love with the reflection he saw there and left.

In the Now before, the man who had come with the other man, the man who had stayed back returned, looking again for a Face. She chose one for him and displayed it. He examined it carefully and left.

In this Now, the quiet tones of the clock break the stillness and she stands and walks and stretches, and thinks of the faceless man as she does so. When she returns to sit on the bed, before she returns to being a Doll, she looks at the camera. There is someone there, watching through the camera's eye, someone she has not seen. She knows cameras. A camera is the eye of someone who wants something they cannot take yet. Whose eye watches her, and what do they want. She remembers the faceless man, puts on her Face, looks up into the camera, takes it off again, and stares at her reflection in the surface of the lens.

Ythros was back outside the cell.

Why? He really didn't know. He was a sea of confusion and conflict, and at the centre of that sea the only thing that remained constant was the image of that Sith. That thing. He hated himself for this... obsession. There was no other word for it... she was entrenched in his mind and for whatever reason was impossible to move.

He entered, taking up his spot on the wall, soon he would wear a visible imprint into it, he had been more and more frequent in his visits lately. He rarely came to look at the Woman anymore, simply to make himself feel content.

He was rage. He was anger.

And he was alone. Alone in this turmoil.

He had been happy! As happy as he could be, anyway. He had a home, a purpose and had been making progress on having an acquaintance.

She had undone that. She had strode in and snapped the fine threads holding up all he had achieved and made him once again into the beast he had arrived as.

What gave her the right to seek what was impossible!

He snapped. "Why did you come here!? If you sought peace you chose wrong, if you sought forgiveness you sought poorly, and if you sought redemption then you are a fool!" He stormed forward and got as close as he could to the barrier. "There is nothing here for you... Nothing! Why come here seeking what you can never have!"

He stayed still waiting for an answer.

She looked into his eyes and spoke; "What did you seek to find here? If not what you can never have?"

And he was rage again. Rage, and utter, terrible confusion.

He stormed out, unable to answer.

Nahila was in her bed rather than at her desk, which was hypothetically an improvement, but the fact was, she was still working. The small holoprojector on her bedside table cast a flickering image above her blanketed knees, an image of a woman sitting motionless on the edge of a bed.

She pressed a button on the projector and skimmed forward through two or three hours of Erzabet doing what she did--sit, stretch, walk, sit. Her schedule was inflexible. She moved, used the refresher, ate at the exact same intervals. Nahila had played with that a bit, sent in meals on the hour, while Erzabet was active, then in the middle of the hour, while she sat. If the meal arrived an hour early, it went cold waiting until the appointed time. If the meal was an hour late, then it was simply skipped, and she ate whatever happened to be there at the next designated meal time. Her schedule was utterly inflexible. There was only one thing that could interrupt it.

A visit from one of the Jedi.

Ketan visited twice daily, to talk to her, or rather lecture her on the path of the Light side. He had started with questions for her, but she simply bent them back upon him until he ended up answering all of them himself. Was it a conscious tactic though, or merely an ingrained defense acquired from a lifetime of living among the Sith? Eventually, Ketan's questions withered away under their own futility, and Ketan fell back into lecturing. The path of the Light side took strength of will, strength of character, required dedication and the willingness to sacrifice one's own ambitions and desires to the greater good. Take his own path, for instance--he could have surrendered to his own impulse to join the wars, but he didn't because the Jedi Council forbade it. Now there were many who considered him and others like him to be cowards, or lackeys of the Council, but they did not understand he had chosen to stay behind because he trusted in the greater good of the Republic and the greater wisdom of the Council. Surely she must understand why he had chosen this path. Surely, she must understand what loyalty to the path of Light cost him. But, he assured her, it was worth it. She must never doubt it was worth it. His voice broke once as he said this. Poor man.

He was supposed to be her teacher, her confessor, but who was confessing to who? From the first, he had asked her help--"Give me something to work with"--and as time went on, he asked for her understanding, her validation, her approval. Who sought absolution in these conversations? Who sought to be redeemed from the past? Not the woman who sat unmoving and unmoved on the bed. Nahila should have removed him from the task, but what remained of his pride was so fragile, and she was learning so much about the both of them.

When Cain started showing up every day after his shift was over, Nahila had Corev replace Johanas as Erzabet's guard. That was his cover story, after all, so might as well start it now.

She was learning a great deal about Cain as well, about the fragility of his pride, about his loneliness. He remembered Corev from the wars apparently, which made Cain both more comfortable and more shy in his presence. Corev treated him with the same deference he showed all Jedi, and this increased both his confidence and his bashfulness. With Erzabet, Cain was not different, exactly. He was all that he was with Nahila, but more. He was earnest, hopeful, humble, proud. He would alternately boast of his prowess in battle and then lament his ineffectiveness among the Jedi. He was also the only one with whom Erzabet would discuss her organization. Much of what she told him came uncomfortably close to indoctrination, and yet, there was nothing really to object to in what she said. Strength came through cooperation rather than conflict, that lasting success and great accomplishment came from unified effort. None of this was objectionable from a Jedi standpoint. Indeed, it should seem self-evident to any adherent to the Light Side, she quelled the instinct that told her to ban Cain from Erzabet's presence. He was getting valuable information out of her, and she was keeping him busy and quiet, and those were two things Nahila needed very much these days.

And then there was Ythros. Ythros, who would show up any time of day or night, who would stare at Erzabet for five minutes or three hours, who would sit motionless in front of her cell, statue inside, statue outside, who would pace back and forth, hissing between his teeth in agitation. Ythros, who now injured himself less and frightened everyone else more than he had in years. Sometimes Ythros taunted her, sometimes she answered him. Corev kept an eye on them both and kept his hand off his weapon. He knew that any injury done to Ythros would more than likely hit everyone within 10 meters. Nahila could feel the tension, could feel the Force coiling more and more tightly around the ragged man with each encounter.

Nahila skimmed forward in the holo, overshot, backed up, and resumed playback on the incident Corev had reported to her 5 minutes ago.

It was Ythros, pacing back and forth in front of the cell, as though he were the animal in the cage and not Erzabet. He was snarling something at her through clenched teeth. Nahila couldn't make it out and she doubted even he knew what he was saying. Suddenly he turned, slammed the palms of his hands against the force field, and leaned on them, eyes closed, immersed in the pain. That wasn't unexpected. No doubt he was trying to calm himself with the electrical burn. What none of them expected was Erzabet's response. She rose and placed her palms over Ythros'. His eyes flew open and for a moment they stood there, eyes locked, flesh blistering against the current, until he staggered back with a snarl. She kept her hands up against the force field, watching him watch her burn, until Ythros turned and fled with a shriek of rage. Corev quickly powered down the field, pushed Erzabet back to her seat on the bed, and began bandaging her hands with dressings from a nearby medkit, too absorbed in his task to even consider pursuing the screaming madman down the hall.

Nahila looked up at Ketan as he entered the room.

"Ah, I was just about to send for you. So... how is our 'guest'?

He had tried to rehearse this conversation somewhat, to prepare his points.
"Very difficult. I could not get a word out of her."

"Really, she refused to speak?"

He sighed. "No. She didn't have a problem with talking. She just didn't say anything. Nothing of use at least."

This rose a bit of interest in Nahila.
"What, an empty-headed chatterbox?"

"No, she sidestepped my questions. Every time I asked something she said just enough to answer. I can't tell if she is withholding information or just oblivious. She does it every time, without cease."

"Given her Sith background, the first is the most likely, don't you think?"

"Yes. I can't think of many options to test this fact however"

"What do you intend to do with her? Shall we keep her there?"

"I doubt we will get any more progress in this situation. I have thought on the matter for a time and I keep coming back to the same conclusion."
The plan was entirely practical, he told himself before.

"And that is...?"

"I plan to test her by re-teaching her in the ways of the Jedi. From a Padawan, of course. I believe it should clear the fog she is accidentally or intentionally putting up."

Nahila leaned back in her chair and frowned as she thought.
"A Padawan? And what would you teach this Padawan of yours? She's not exactly a youngling or novice in the Force."

"It would be more a matter of testing than teaching. If she is Sith than she will surely slip in the training. If she is true in her words then this is the first step toward the mutual goal of changing her ways."

Nahila pondered this.
"Hmmmmm. What will you do if she fails, if she is a Sith? What if she is more dangerous than we imagine her to be-what then?"

"Then I hope the Republic officer you placed your trust in will be enough to assist me in dealing with her plans."

"If anyone is enough in that case, it's Corev." She paused once more as she thought. And yet, if we do not take the risk, how will we know? Do you know Cain? The Jedi out front, the returned Revanchist, the one who is twenty-eight and acts like he is eighteen? He came stomping into my office yesterday, demanding that I release her. He said we were doing her a great injustice and giving a very bad example of those who claim to follow the Light. As much as I hate to admit it, he might have a point. If that is what she claims to be, then we are wrong to imprison her. If she deceives us...Well if she is deceiving us, how will we ever learn her plans if we keep her cooped up and restrained? And do we not profess that the light is stronger than the darkness? Do we still believe that? If so, then we man win her regardless, or at least defeat her."

He had met Cain on occasions before, they hadn't been enjoyable.
"I agree. I believe this to be the first step towards her destiny, be it redemption or destruction."

"Her destiny and ours as well, perhaps. Perhaps in redeeming her, we will redeem ourselves. We have lost our way, Ketan, and our faith in the strength of the Light Side. Who knows, if you succeed, perhaps you will heal the wound this war has inflicted on our order."

He paused himself for a moment at these theories.
"I feel the same. As you said, if we manage to truly bring her to the Light it will be a great victory. Do I have your consent then?"

Nahila sighed, sounding more like the release of tension than relief.
"Yes. Yes, go ahead and do it. I'll tell the guards, and have them wait for you to come release her."

"I am glad to see you agree Take leave for a bit." He added a friendly smile. "You seem to need it. Remember, you said it yourself, this situation is in good hands of both me and your officer."

"You may find another pair of hands involved, whether you want them or not. I told Cain you were in charge of her. Prepare to have someone stomping into your office with a strong sense of justice and no sense of perspective. You've been warned."

A part of him may have looked forward to the meeting. His confidence looked for another outlet.
"Thank you for the heads-up. He will find I am adamant in my thinking and I am taking my own course of action this time, whether he likes it or not."

"You know, I am almost hoping he does go storming after you. Perhaps you can set him a better example. If nothing else, you can keep him out of my office."

"Well, I must go about setting up precautions, plans, and whatnot." He smiled again to his old friend. "And think seriously about taking a break. You look as if you have been awake for days."

"I have, Ketan. I have."

"Until later."

He got up from the chair and walked out, already thinking about what needed to be set in order for this ambitious idea. He hadn't forgotten about the conversation though. Watch the woman carefully, be ready for Cain's inevitable challenge of his judgement, and make sure Nahila got some sleep.

Corev sat back at his desk outside of Erzabet's cell reflecting on what had happened in the last couple of weeks. Nahila had assigned him to this desk as Erzabet's guard which he supposed had been the plan all along. His week had been eventful, filled with visitors coming to visit the Sith Lady or Jedi in training. He had sat by and watched as Ketan attempted to train her in the ways of the Jedi. She didn't seem willing or she was just finding flaws in what he was trying to show her. Either way she did not look like a Padawan in training with her Master. Ketan seemed to be treating her as if she was any other Padawan trying to learn the ways of the Jedi but what he didn't take into account was that she wasn't. She had been with the Sith for years, she had learned their ways, and in order for her to turn back to the light she would have to be convinced that those ways are flawed and the Jedi's were better. The blame could not all be laid on Ketan as Erzabet herself seemed to find flaws in everything he told her as well as flaws in her teachings with the Sith.

Her other visitors were two of the most unusual Jedi in the temple. One of them he knew from the Wars. The young man was a good soldier but like most of the Revanchists, Corev found him too rash and hot tempered. His visits with Erzabet had shown Corev how true that actually was. He didn't trust the young Jedi and he vowed not to stop watching him so long as he visited Erzabet. The other, Ythros he remembered, was a peculiar man. His ability to share his pain seemed more of a Sith attribute then one a Jedi would posses. His mind also seemed to be scared and not all there. It was not too long ago that Corev had seen the man run screaming down the halls of the temple like he was fresh out of an asylum. He would have taken off after him but Erzabet, for some unknown reason, had decided to maim herself in imitation of Ythros. She didn't object when he pushed her into the room and bandaged her hands. She hadn't said anything at all, just sat there and stared at him.

It seemed that Ketan had gone to Nahila and requested that Erzabet be released so he could better teach her. Corev wasn't sure if that would work, she didn't seem too willing to adopt his ideas. In fact, Corev could not figure out what she wanted exactly. Did she want to change and become a Jedi or did she come here to get a look at the Jedi's point of view? If so, then did she see it as something she wanted or was it as flawed to her as the Sith's way of doing things? He continued to be suspicious of her and also a little curious but he had to try and not let his curiosity get the best of him. Nahila had said it might come to this so the only thing he could do was continue to watch her and her many guests.

Nahila looked at the calendar. Almost a month now, and no surprise attacks, sabotage, or assassinations. Perhaps the Sith woman wasn't a threat. Or rather, Nahila reminded herself, perhaps the woman was not a Sith. Erzabet had warmed a little since the collar had come off. She was still unusually quiet and physically self-contained, but the unnatural stillness had melted away somewhat. She no longer spent all her free time staring motionless at the wall.

Ketan was certainly as happy as she'd ever seen him. His pupil was progressing quickly, much stronger in the Force now than when she had arrived. He might be overworking himself, however. He seemed a bit tired and occasionally irritable, especially when he was compelled to attend to duties that did not involve Erzabet. To the best that Ketan was able to manage it, the two were always together, meditating, studying, talking about the history of the Jedi and their philosophy. Or to be more precise, Ketan was doing the talking. He seemed to have given up on asking her questions about herself. Nahila wondered at that, if Ketan had given it up because of his repeated failure to get information out of her, or if he was simply focusing his energy on what seemed to be the most productive course of action. Regardless, Erzabet listened attentively, never taking her eyes off him when he spoke and speaking only to confirm she understood what he said.

Although Ketan contrived to be at her side as much as possible, he did have to leave her occasionally, and though he did not know it, in those times, her Jedi education did not cease, it simply changed hands. Cain had decided to teach Erzabet a few combat skills.

There was a certain irony to that. Cain's lightsaber skills could be charitably described as adequate, but he'd developed a number of tricks of the Force to compensate for his lack of ability. Erzabet's lightsaber skills were worse than his--as she put it, she knew which end of the lightsaber to hold--so he could and did at least help her with the basics, and as her strength in the Force grew, so did her ability to employ Cain's techniques. This was all done on the sly, of course. Cain had offered himself to Ketan as Erzabet's sparing partner in her lightsaber training and been coldly rebuffed. It was much to soon for Ketan's padawan to even begin thinking of combat training. A row had followed, with several un-Jedi-like words exchanged, which Ketan had won by virtue of his official authority over Erzabet's education. Unofficially, her combat training had begun that afternoon the minute Ketan's back was turned. Ketan was so wrapped up in her, he didn't even notice the sneaking around, which seemed a bit odd. When he did find out, no doubt there would be a disturbance in the Force where he and Cain were concerned.

Nahila could have put a stop to it but instead chose not to interfere. If Ketan never asked his padawan questions about herself or her past, Cain never ceased asking. His infatuation was inappropriate in a Jedi, but useful because Erzabet answered him readily, though her answers were cryptic at times. It was an important source of information for Nahila, who continued to keep Erzabet under surveillance. It also kept him happy, which kept him out of the sulks and out of her office.

Over all this, Corev kept careful watch. Erzabet had been moved out of the detention block and into a small suite of rooms usually reserved for temple guests, an unheard of luxury for a padawan, but then a Sith Lord padawan was rather unheard of as well. Ketan had also been moved into an adjoining room in the suite, and Corev, as Erzabet's guardian, slept on the couch in the living area. Erzabet spoke to him as well, but not as she did to Cain. Though it was always hard to read her face and manner, she seemed to respect Corev as an equal and sometimes they would pass the night together in conversation when neither of them could sleep.

Thus, with two teachers (one unofficial) and a bodyguard, Erzabet was never left unattended, and so Ythros confined himself to stalking and staring at her from a distance. Nahila had no idea why Ythros was so fascinated with that woman, and she would hazard a bet that Ythros had no more idea than she did. Did he believe she was still a Sith? If so, then why didn't he kill her? And if he did not think she was a Sith, why wasn't he indifferent to her as he was to everyone else?

Ythros was falling.

His room was a testament to his descent from 'grace', smashed furniture, filthy walls and discarded meals. The centre was a clear patch of debris and in the centre was Ythros.

Before Erzabet had come, he had made plans for redemption. They were so much dust now. He had been working on meeting with others... a goal now impossible. He had been attempting to find a place in the world, a dream now shattered. He had even been trying to foster a connection once again with the force. That, most of all, burnt his mind with its loss, The possibility of reconnecting with the force.

Now, he was worse than ever, an animal inside his own mind and barely better without. He crept the halls and skittered away from human contact.

Except for one. One, he sought merely to... to... *GAH*, To What!?

He was lost.

In the oppressive blackness and stench of his room he focused on his indecision, a million voices inside his mind yelled at him, berating his indecision and abusing his sensibilities. He was not mad. These voices were those that any secluded mind endures, but in the twisted synapses of a broken man, a shattered life... They were a cacophony of doubt and self-hate. In the exile alone he was spiraling downwards.

In his mind he could only focus on one thing.

His knives. How easy it would be to stick them into the bitch. How simple to turn a corner and hurl one of the blades into her face... He had been on the verge of doing it a score of times, fingers dancing along the edge of the knife and opening his fingertips to the air.

Obsession was all-consuming and he flailed wildly for any constant other than her presence in the aether of his conscience.


The traitor, the bastard who had thought he cold change a Sith and doomed him by releasing the witch.

Confusion, warped by rage and desperation, became hate. All his indecision and lost thoughts channeled through broken logic and twisted connections.

He released her, and she had made him like this, broken him... He needed to put her back, he needed to get rid of this... this... *aargh!* this Convolution in his mind!

Absent of actual reason, his mind found a purpose.

Ketan released her, She was destroying him, Ketan must die

Ythros cut his own tongue down the middle, barely stopping short of giving himself a serpents split, and grinned through the blood that ran freely down his neck and chest.

Yes... That... W-would make eVErything Better...

She can feel him now, feel him burning, feel him writhe. He is too alive and cannot bear it. He does not know how to be Still. He tries to be human instead and it drives him mad.

How extraordinary you are!

He is so scarred, he is without scars. A scar is a disruption of the unity of the surface, and he is so so cut and crosshatched, the scars themselves are the surface, uninterrupted, a torn harmony that cannot be ruined, only embellished. His mind is a maze, a sandstorm, a nest of snakes. She could never take him for her own, even without the collar she could not, but he had thrown himself at her and so it was done.

They sat, hour after hour, the Faceless Man in front of the Mirror. Sometimes he would speak to her. Sometimes she would answer him. Sometimes he would see the shadow of his own face in the looking glass and flee. He wanted her to shatter, but like him, she could not be shattered any further.

He was alone. He wanted her to suffer, but Dolls feel no pain and no fear. Dolls do not suffer. And so he was alone.

That day he sat before the Mirror, and she knew that though he would not see his face in her, he would see his pain in her if he could. He did not know she was a Doll. He threw himself against the force field, he hands visibly blistering, and she knew.

He was going to give her his wounds.

She stepped forward and, mirroring, put her hands over his. The connection, the terrible intimacy through which he intended to give her pain, reached past the barriers of her collar and his madness. Her hands blistered. She remained Still.

The pain he wished to give her, she took from him. She took it from him, the choice to give pain, the choice to receive it. It was the only thing that was still truly his, other than rage. She took it from him. She kept it. He left, screaming with the rage of having been once again torn in half.

He can feel her now, feel her sink below the surface, feel her float. She is a Doll, she is not alive, she can bear anything. She can be still. She has ceased to be human and it has given her peace.

"I was considering starting out small - light and small, easy to lift, manipulate, twirl around the room. But in the same way lifting pens up and down wouldn't give you biceps, doing so with the Force wouldn't do much to strengthen your connection."

Cain stood in the center of the room he and Erzabet used to train, contemplating the purple glow of his lightsaber as he spoke.

"I love this weapon - not just the sheer power of it, though. As a weapon, it is elegant, forceful, almost beautiful. As a symbol, however, it is without equal. The sight of a lightsaber alone commands respect from your allies, and fear in your foes."

The purple hue retreated into the hilt as he deactivated the saber.

"In comparison to the Force, however, it is useless. It is nothing more than an impressive tool. It even relies on the Force. To wield this weapon without complete awareness of your surroundings is dangerous to both you and those around you."

Cain's eyes were without focus as he lost himself in a memory, smiling to himself.

"In the war, I witnessed a Mandalorian get cocky, take out a lightsaber he must have looted off one of our fallen. Wasn't long before he'd lopped his other hand off, misjudged the weight of the thing."

Regaining his composure, he turned to Erzabet, who sat at one edge of the room, seemingly attentive, but silent. It made him rather nervous, to be truthful, as if he was talking to himself and she was casually eavesdropping.

"A Force-user learns to separate themselves from the battle, to view themselves and their surroundings with a cold, disconnected clarity. To do otherwise is to give in to fear, to dread or cowardice. We wave around weapons that could cut clean through us with what appears to be reckless abandon. We perform acrobatic feats and elegant movements that should not be attempted with a normal blade, let alone one comprised of pure energy. What we do with this weapon is not down to physical conditioning and trained reflexes, as those can only do so much."

Cain casually walked to the edge opposite Erzabet, and stopped next to what appeared to be a large cube of crushed metal.

"No, what we do, we do with the Force, that ubiquitous energy. We are but human, we cannot rely on our weak, fragile bodies to control such a weapon, to tame such a blade. Where our physical limits end, our metaphysical power begins. Therefore, to learn of our combat, you must first have a deep comprehension of, and connection to, the Force."

He pointed at the cube. "If you were to strengthen your physical muscles, you could lift weights. Therefore to strengthen your metaphysical muscles, I thought you could lift several weights that I compressed into a cube, with the Force. I am not a teacher, nor am I particularly eloquent, and it would be difficult for me to 'instruct' you in the use of the Force, even if I could. Even if I was able to do so, it could not compare to the experience, the triumph of will over matter. All you need to know, is that your arm does not stop at the fingertips - it carries on, unseen to you, and encompasses that cube, just as the air does. That arm knows few physical limits with practice, and whereas you or I could not lift this cube with our physical arms, we may do so with our metaphysical ones."

Cain paced back, to Erzabet's side, and continued, "I do not expect you to be able to lift the cube, not today. But I am hoping that being unable to - failure in itself - will strengthen you."

Despite his outward appearance, Cain was in pain. From his eyes to his toes, he ached, and he felt it may have had something to do with the fact that he had stopped sleeping. He felt tired, so very exhausted, but sleep would not come. Cain had even stopped trying to sleep. It had been many days since he had even gone into his room, all of his time spent 'training' Erzabet the best he could, or stalking Ketan and waiting to train Erzabet.

Cain feared that he was breaking down, that he was going mad - but he felt happy, the happiest that he had been in a long time. He knew that he was lacking as a teacher but he had the knowledge, and he could help her find that knowledge for herself. It was a shame that he had to do so behind Ketan's back, as it greatly inconvenienced Cain to have to skulk about, to teach only when there was a gap in the Master's schedule, but the lad got a simple thrill out of tricking the high-and-mighty Jedi.

If Cain held resentment towards Ketan then he was not aware of it. He was annoyed that he had been refused formal tuition of Erzabet, but he was not angry at Ketan for refusing so bluntly - it was to be expected, in fact.

He was far more worried about the scarred one, Ythros. It was disturbing when he would rage his way around the Temple, but now that he had taken to stalking his way around Erzabet, Cain was becoming concerned that he might be an actual threat, that he might have decided Erzabet was nothing more than a Sith to be butchered.

Instead of continuing with the training, Erzabet considered the jedi;

"Why do you not sleep?"

Had his eyes been capable of it, they may have shown surprise. However, all that appeared was a confused blink;

" To tell the truth, I do not know, I just simply...do not, at least, not anymore. Is it that obvious?"

"I do not know if others see it. I do not know if they look to see. I see. I can Heal, did you know that? Before I knew what the Force was, I Healed. Perhaps that is how I know."

Cain raised an eyebrow;

"A healer? Amongst the Sith? I spend most of my time here or near your suites, Erzabet, I am aware that you yourself do not sleep. Why not heal yourself?"

"I do heal myself. I would have died if I did not. I do not sleep by choice. You, however, do not choose this."

"No, I do not. And I do not see why you would - or how you even do so. There are ways through the force to shut down the body, to nearly stop bodily functions - a form of stasis through meditation. But...to have complete awareness during such a process? How did you learn such a thing?"

"One learns by necessity. Is that not how you learned to use the Force in battle as you do? But there are times that I must sleep, when I can no longer choose otherwise."

"My understanding of the Force is...difficult to describe, but describable nonetheless. What you do...seems impossible? And surely when you must sleep, it is a blessing, to finally do so after such a long time without it?"

"If it was, I would not chose to forego it."

Cain considered this; he did not want to pry, but there was one thing above battle that he yearned for, and that was understanding - to know the Force, to completely comprehend the connection he had, no matter how limited or strong it became. He pressed on;

"I had assumed that sleep was impractical for you, but you make it sound as if it is unpleasant...why? What could be so unpleasant that it becomes necessary to defy biological imperatives?"

"It is unpleasant to dream."

"What dreams could possibly make sleep a terrible thing?"

"Dreams of the necessity to learn to Heal."

"You...you speak of being harmed?"

"No, I do not speak of it."

She would not go on, telling him that she did not wish to discuss it further. Cain was disappointed, and scolded himself for it - he had come close enough to new knowledge that he was willing to put this woman, who he idolized so much, through her troubled past. No answer was worth that, no matter how his curiosity grew, and if it was discussed again, it would be on her grounds, her terms and wishes, not his.

Cain sighed - a healing Sith, a seemingly psychopathic stalker, a Republic Veteran serving as a bodyguard, and Cain caught up in the far too confusing events. At least things were becoming interesting.

Erzabet was not finished, however. Cain's eyes grew weary with that sigh, and whether Erzabet took advantage of this, or whether it was simply a sign that it was the right time was irrelevant - regardless of her motive, she healed.

She rose, put one hand on his foreheard, brushed it down his face to close his eyes, and simply told him to sleep.

It was not as much of a command as it was an authoritative prophecy - as if he would sleep, not due to her wishes, but because she had healed him, and therefore, when night came, he would sleep.

And that night, he slept.

The droid twitched, sparking madly as the knife found its way into its processing core. Arms flailed and tread whirred as it battered its assailant with the service tray welded to its forearms.

It was pointless, this predator had mastered pain.

Ythros tore apart the droid and scattered its parts around his room, little more than a nest now. Parts from at least 3 other droids spewed about the dank corners and he shuffled them out of the way. He didn't take the droid out of malice, but fear.

He was all fear, paranoia had replaced doubt, terror had superseded all notions of caution and he killed anything that approached his room. Anything that might discover his plots to murder the one thing his twisted mind had found proof enough to call the architect of his misery.


He had almost struck a dozen times, skulking in shadows in torn robes, but that sycophant Cain kept him separated from his goals. Tailing the pair the fool always prevented his clean attack.

Cain would be next, he taught the witch how to bite and he conspired with them towards his undoing

His mind needed no proof at this stage, his Obsession had led to anger. Anger had led to fear. Fear led to desperation and Desperation had degenerated into paranoia and madness. All he saw now were threats, threats to his life and possibility of redemption. Oddly enough, he never turned his ire towards its centre, the woman Erzabet... She was merely a constant in his mind, a gaping wound in his perceptions and all around that gash he saw foes and feints.

He was broken upon his fears.

And now they give her a lightsaber, her! A sith! When he had been their ally for years! No, not an ally... he saw that now... a pet, a servant and a weapon... A tool to show their young what could go wrong...

In truth, he had no lightsaber because he had not the force ability to wield it. But his mind in its current state twisted it around his current mental infection into another spar of hate... the wound in his conscience made every chance for reason another place madness could storm his soul.

But worse in his mind, was the sense of being lost. He felt all this hate and rage, all this fear and terror... but had nowhere to direct it. Nowhere his mind could direct it, anyway. And so his mind returned to a ready-made outlet and focused once again into a lance.

Now, it had to be now. He must strike, or surely die

Corev walked briskly behind Erzabet and Ketan as they made their way through the halls of the temple. It was the same thing everyday, it had been the same thing for the past couple of weeks now. They would go through talking about the light and how good it was, Ketan teaching Erzabet all he knew while she seemed to listen intently. Corev was actually surprised at Ketan`s progress with her, he had not expected him to get very far with the women but he seemed to be getting through to her and her power in the Force had grown substantially.

He had stopped listening to most of their conversations about the Jedi. He hadn`t liked it or completely agreed with it when he was a Padawan why should he have to go through it all again? That did not mean that he wasn't paying attention though, it just meant he paid more attention to the way Erzabet responded to what Ketan was saying. Besides he had plenty of other problems to worry about.

Cain was still always around her and it was as if he was even more obsessed with her then when she was a prisoner. He was not too much of a problem however, he was not harming anything for the moment.

Ythros, on the other hand, was a big problem. The man never came up to Erzabet, or any of them for that matter, but Corev could always see him around a corner or down the hallway glaring at Erzabet as if he had something personal against her. Well, she had been a Sith and Corev knew that Ythros was always out hunting Sith. Maybe he thought she was just another Sith or maybe it was something more. The truly troubling part was that he was glaring at Ketan just as much or maybe even more then he was at Erzabet. Corev didn't know why Ythros was acting that way but the look he gave those two meant that he was planning something, and that plan probably meant trouble for all of them. To add more frustration to the situation, he couldn't even report the whole thing to Nahila as she was away on some government related matter. He could send her a message, but he did not want her returning from something important and have it turn out to be nothing.

Ythros was a weird guy. Maybe this was just him being him but just in case it was something more, Corev would have to keep an eye on him.

Ketan focused, long deep breaths in the nose and out the mouth. It was hard to relax in the turmoil of his mind... but there was no alternative but to try. To submit was to be in chaos.


Ythros focused, sharp breaths in through the mouth and spat back out like a poison. It was impossible to think in the maelstrom of his mind... And there was no alternative. To struggle was to be swept aside.


Ketan was a Jedi conflicted, in his mind all of the arguments for why he did not go to war lined up proud and spartan for inspection. They were solid and unflinching before his gaze, supported by his conviction to the light which never flinched or wavered... never before. Even before he had started to doubt that conviction he had never found those ranks of facts a comfort.

Men had died while he had held up his conviction with pride... he was apprehensive that it was worth nothing compared to the actions of those misguided fools who had fought in the name of light. He had thought them misguided, anyway... thought them impulsive and rash.

They thought him stagnant and slow... he was not sure if he thought otherwise now that times had passed.


Ythros thought nothing but blood, he held up his madness to the abyss and it had not been found wanting.

He scuttled along the shadows like a beast and his demons followed him with whips of hate and terror.


Ketan sighed, he was alone in this room now, Erzabet had left no doubt to continue her covert training in the arts of battle... In the past he would have taken her to Ythros to see where deception could lead... but the poor man had locked himself away since her arrival. Maybe he could go and see him one of these days.


Ythros could see Ketan.



Come to think of it, Ketan had not seen Ythros at all for a week, not even at meals... and he would have noticed a droid delivering food to him. Had he had an accident? Nobody ever went near the room of the patchwork man and if he had hurt himself he might even now be trapped. Or worse, one of his... tendencies getting the best of him


Ythros scuttled along the ceiling, fingers gripping micro-holds in the 'smooth' surface and he glared down on the prey below.

Now he could strike back at the nameless lost-ness that gripped him


Ketan was grateful for the distraction from his own thoughts, but even so he could not escape them, he turned back to hs-

Blood? dripping fro-

Rolling aside he dodged the thunderous knives that struck from above, and watched as a bone-thin wretch fell to collect them. It scooped up the knives and spun to face him.

Ythros had fallen far, open wounds littered him now, in some places muscle glistened beneath great gashes and pulsed like a felusian forest. His flesh was not not scars but scabs, not a place of him remained untouched by his own hands... and nails... and teeth... The scarecrow had ordered no food. Savage chunks out of his shoulders and biceps spoke of a more terrible depravity... for a week had been eating himself. Ketan moved backwards and brought his lightsaber to bear, unignited and only as a warning. "Ythros, lets get you to a medi-"

Ythros focused with hate on the Lightsaber and lept, knives batted aside by the sudden pulsing beam. "Gaah!" Was all he was able to vocalize by a throat that had not been able to evade the reach of his own blades. Over and over he struck madly and without pause... This was not Ythros, Ythros was more than capable of giving a foe with a lightsaber a run for his money... this was a beast in a broken shell with a broken mind.

Ketan merely danced out of the way, not wanting to strike back and injure the animal before him, but Ythros was fast and knew no restraint.

Ketan reached out to the force and pushed Ythros back, but the walking slaughterhouse barely budged, his own perverted link with the force serving two purposes. The first was to make him resistant to the influence to others, a hole in the all pervading aura of the force. The second was why he was such a prolific killer of Sith, and today possibly Jedi. Ketan winced as he felt it and tried to hold it back. All over his body cuts appeared, tiny and red at first, but growing as he failed to completely resist the abomination that was the Curse of Ythros.

Ythros knew pain like nobody else, he had endured decades of it contantly... And learned to share it and its causes.

Ketan shouted for aid and began to retreat, he could not restrain Ythros, and to attack him was to either kill him outright or risk injuring himself. And besides, the longer he spent in the company of Ythros the wider the thousands of gashes in his flesh grew. Evidently Ythros was not entirely lucid, if he was truly feeling the wounds he had inflicted on himself this fight would be much less prolonged. Ythros needed to feel it to share it.

Ketan was a Jedi, and could weild his saber with great ability, but now he used it to bat aside mad thrusts and wicked sweeps, knives black with old blood seeking to disembowel or open arteries. But even that was failing. Ketan bliked and saw blood, his very eyes had begun to weep red as wounds sliced into Ythros own eyeballs found their way to Ketan.

This had to end, Ythros was beyond saving and if someone without the ability to resist him arrived they would likely die there and then. Ketan stepped forward and prepared to bat aside the Cortosis weave knives and slice Ythros from head to toe.

When the standing corpse froze, eyes open wide and hissing escaping from his throat. Behind him was Cain. Cain had come to the conclusion sooner than Ketan, and had stabbed Ythros through the base of his spine, a killing blow to put him down. Ythros roared and spun, punching Cain down and ignoring the fatal blow in his back and drawing back his knives.

"You too, traitor?" hissed Ythros "You who would arm the siren even as she blackens your mind?"

Ythros saw Cain begin to falter, his robes beginning to darken by a dozen minor cuts shared from the repository before him.

"Fine, if i need to purge this entire temple to save it i will!"

He lept


Ketan was crawling away, his body slick with blood from wounds he never received, when he saw the woman pass him, Erzabet strode down the hall towards the fight behind him.

Even as Ythros tried to kill Cain, he spotted the Once-Sith and screamed aloud. Undone by her presence.

"You!" He cried
"Me' She said levelly, reaching out to place a hand on his chest.

Ketan felt the bombardment of wounds stop.

A day had passed since Ythros had finally succumbed to his madness, and now the dark puppet hung in a bacta tank, eyes wide open and staring out at Erzabet before him.

In the middle of his chest was perfect skin, a hand sized oval where she had broken the back of his paranoia.

His eyes fixed hers through the liquid and spoke nothing but raw, brutal and murderous hatred. But sane, sane and healed.

He was now scars again, except for the patch upon his chest, and could feel his mind repairing in her presence. But he hated her, hated her for now he was dependant on her, his only anchor in the sea of madness she herself had unleashed within him by her arrival.

For better or for worse, Ythros was now tied by fate to the thing that had broken him, provided the Jedi did not execute him first... Ketan had been by to speak with him and assure Ythros he did not blame him for his actions. But Cain, Cain might not be so forgiving... and Corev had only heard about the fight but would surely never cease to suspect him.

Ythros hated Erzabet, raged against her because now he could never be sane without her.

His eyes shot loathing through the tank, even as her own ones merely watched him in mild curiosity. He was used to pain...

...but not this... agony.

He screams. The Burning Man screams as though it is she who set him alight. (If it had been she, he would not hate her, he would love her. She knows this, as she knows the smell of fuel on her skin, the tcht! of the lighter, knows gazing through the sudden uprush of golden light at the face of the only man who can save her, who will save her, if only so he may become her savior again and again and again...)

She will save him. She did not set him alight (Athrix!) but she will save him and he will hate her for it.



She opens her mind and drowns him. (The smell of steel, the tank, the shackles, the tinny grind of the valve opening, the glimmering line slowly climbing the metal sides, the rising cold, the face of her savior wavering on the other side of the surface, no, she looks, no, his face, no, no, no, she no longer desires salvation, and his face becomes clear as the ripples recede and finally cease.)

The Burning Man, extinguished, tries to swim but his scars bind him, tries to swim but he can emerge into nothing but flame, tries to swim but she keeps the valve open and the water is cold, and she does not release him until the surface is Still.

Now, in the medical bay, he is in the tank, looking through the liquid at the face of his savior. In the middle of his chest is his only true scar.

Ketan rubbed his face, it stung mildly as did the hand doing the rubbing... all of him stung mildly, really. The cuts had healed quickly with meditation, healing was never his strong suit but his injuries were minor. Admittedly, the damage he knew that had really been dealt was to the morale of the temple.

Nahila was the one for spotting important events and portents in advance, but it did not take a gift to see what was happening after the... incident. Tensions were high, there were whispers of exile for Ythros, and putting Erzabet back into holding. He knew he would need to speak with them both and ascertain the true reasons behind what had happened. Which was not a task he was looking forward too.

Ythros had been far from remorseful when he had gone to see him:

"I dont blame you, you know" He had told the scarecrow
"Why should you? Do you think it would be better if you did?" Spat the suspended Ythros through the tanks glass, his almost reptilian voice made more alien by a foot of water and glass.
"No, not at all, but sometimes people can blame them-"
"I know who to blame!" Ythros pressed his face against the panels "You don't think i remember? I know those were not my actions but still they are burned behind my eyes like a huttese slave-brand! I know i did not mean what i wrought but still i must find retribution... And i know where i would place it would it not be the end of any hope for a lucid existence outside of this liquid prison!"

Ketan could not respond, of all the responses he had expected anger was the one he had least anticipated. Did he honestly think Erzabet the architect of his madness?

Ythros himself had given him a half answer; "One does not need to be the storm to sink the ship"

Erzabet would surely be even less predictable, despite his efforts to have her open up to events. Her lessons had become discussions verging on debate, her turning his teachings into questions he could not answer fully and into those cracks she would force more questions until she sat there innocently among the broken pieces of his confidence and requested more of his faith twist and confuse. He knew one thing, he was right, and clung to it amid this growing frustration.

He was trying to teach her all that the light represented, but her mind was almost too... wide. Not that it took a closed one to see the Light as he presented it, but there were times when questions needed to be silenced so that the whole truth can be expanded on. If he could only get her to see the full scope of events then her questions might cease to distract her... If thats what they were doing, he suspected lately she might be trying to teach him as much as he attempted to tutor her...

If one thing had changed, it was Ketan. This process of 'converting' Erzabet had spawned something in him, not unlike his alleigance to the way of the Jedi... it had spawned Devotion. He would see no stone unturned to save her, no matter the cost.

That as as far as Ketan thought before he retired for sleep. In fact, it was a far as his mind would let him think.

But there was one part of that conversation with Ythros he had failed to recall.

"I don't think your mind is clear yet, your not thinking straight" He had reasoned with the wretch.

Ythros had smiled and settled further back into the Bacta, after this he would not be prompted into further discussion. His faint voice, rasped as it was carried into Ketans ears...

"No? Well i am not so scarred yet in my perceptions that i cannot see the claws she has dug into your mind..."

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