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Author Topic: Tales from Clan Noth  (Read 4715 times)

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Offline Noth

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Tales from Clan Noth
« on: 08/02/16, 10:51:14 PM »
(( Thanks to the padawan-hunting group for the RP behind the story. @SivWysan find your character! :D ))

Seirion spent most of the mission on Tython watching their ship. He had gone to get help once the group ran into more trouble than they could handle. With the multiple attacks on the planet over the past half decade, Flesh Raiders had been given more leeway to overrun what was left of the Jedi than was really good for the planet... or their search party. The man had run back to Kalikori Village, grabbed a speeder to go the rest of the way, and alerted the nearest Jedi Master that there was a situation involving missing Padawans, pirates, a lot of toothy vibroblade-wielding cannibals, and a dire need for backup. He spent the next half hour watching the comms - and worrying.

'What if they don't find Aybekk?'

He looked at the handful of dried-out leaves in his palm, all that they'd found of the Padawans' campsite. He didn't know the tea was Aybekk's, not really, and the scent was masked by the fact that it had been lying in dirt and charred coals for a while. Still, he felt hopeful. Every little sign helped. He fished out the bracelet in his pocket and ran it through his fingers as well. Jewelry wasn't exactly Jedi standard-issue, but this one, their sister's kids had made for their uncle. And Aybekk wore it, because he hated to see the little ones disappointed.

And Seirion had pulled it off a pirate. Not the smartest move, in retrospect. Starting fights was not the way to endear himself to the Jedi, and not something he was particularly proud of... He had apologized to Master Wysan about it, but it was yet another reason he wanted to stay at camp. Nothing he did at the station had been very cool or collected. It had been a while since he served the Jedi, but he still remembered how to act around them: and pulling blasters on someone without being provoked was definitely not it, and was not likely to inspire confidence if he ever went back to the job.

'Back to the job? And serve who? What Jedi?'

That was the real question. The Enclave on Iridonia was barely existent any more, most Jedi acting on their own, or blending back into their clans. On Tython, sure, there were Jedi left, but they seemed stretched thin as it was. They would probably appreciate an extra hand, but the atmosphere on this planet now was... locked-down, desperate, and not particularly hopeful. It seemed like the sort of assignment that was long, thankless, and you weren't likely to ever leave. That was well and good if you were a Jedi, he supposed, but he wasn't. Working for his clan's council had shown him there were bigger problems than guarding a couple of holy monks, and also, reminded him that the galaxy was a much bigger place than listening to Knights return with stories of their own adventures. Still, do what you know... and all his life, Seirion had only ever served causes bigger than his own wants or needs: the Jedi, the Clan, and now the Coalition. Life was getting a little too complicated with three different causes.

'Maybe, though,' he thought, 'there's some way to do all three at once.'

His thoughts were interrupted by the sound of footsteps. Seir ducked out of the ship to see who was coming, hoping there was good news and not bad. Instead, he found himself looking at a very familiar figure entering the Temple's small landing bay. His brother looked worse for wear, robes scuffed and ripped in places, a few bruises, but otherwise perfectly alright. Seirion ran over immediately and hugged him before he could protest or move out of the way.

"Oof! Seir-- You can let go, I'm alright." Aybekk smiled, though, and returned the hug hesitantly. "Heard I have you to thank for my rescue."

Seirion grinned and stepped back, then held out the bracelet for the younger Zabrak to take back. "Think this is yours. Took it from one of those pirates. Well, not me, one of the Knights who was with us..."

Aybekk nodded, taking the bit of jewelry and putting it back around his wrist. "Thanks," he said, looking at the other with a grateful nod. "I'm guessing you're the one who contacted Maerin?"

"She might've mentioned something about having to charge you next time," Seirion replied with a smile. "But, actually, she got in touch with me, sort of. We ran into each other. It's a long story, uh..." He looked around, at the Knights and Padawans gathered in the landing bay. "Maybe one for when we get back home. Assuming, um, you're coming home?"

He looked at his brother uncertainly. Aybekk was his little brother, but he didn't carry himself like one. Seirion slouched; Aybekk stood straight, it made him look taller. He was also gaunter, more serious, and more thoughtful. So he wasn't surprised when the younger looked away, eyes sliding to the side as he thought. He half-expected to be told no. The young Jedi had left for Tython without much more than a note. He was a Senior Padawan now, nothing was wrong with taking his own missions, but he was pretty sure that Master Orans hadn't approved that one. It was obvious to everyone, not just Seirion, that Iridonia wasn't his home.

After a moment of thought, Aybekk looked back, "I should go. I need to at least report in. But I need to make sure the younger padawans are alright first."

"Right, 'course." Seirion nodded. "Well, whenever you're ready, ship's got plenty of room."

Aybekk nodded, moving to leave. Before he did, though, he called back, "When I get back, you owe me the full story."

Seirion made a small salute, and waved as the younger man disappeared. The full story... That would take some explaining. He wasn't sure if he should even tell Aybekk about the Coalition. Sure, he knew that the clan was sending out feelers to help anti-Zakuul fighters, fleeing Jedi, things like that, but he wasn't sure exactly how much Aybekk and his master were even involved in those things. Still, family was family, and they were on the same side. And he knew that Aybekk had taken the Zakuul invasion... hard, and personal. It felt wrong to leave him out of it. At the same time, it felt just as wrong to bring it back into his brother's life - he had suffered enough because of Zakuul.

'He's a Jedi,' Seirion reminded himself. 'And we've only really known each other a few years. Don't get protective. He can take whatever I tell him.'

Still, he'd started a fight, one against a whole group of bragging, drunken pirates, just because he thought one of them might have harmed Aybekk. Not getting emotionally attached was long behind him. That was why he was here, wasn't it? The Coalition team could have easily used Tira'Noth as a base to launch from on their own, no need for him to go with them except to look for Aybekk.

It occurred to him as he reentered the spacecraft that he didn't want to go looking for Aybekk again. He didn't want to sit there, staring at computers, and wondering if his brother was coming back alive again. Whatever he decided, about the Coalition, the Clan, the Jedi... Aybekk needed to be a part of that process. No silence, no secrets, no running off on missions without telling the other what was going on. They would do this together, whatever that meant. And that meant making this decision together. He made a note to set aside time to talk when they would have a lot of time to do it.
« Last Edit: 08/02/16, 11:08:44 PM by Noth »
The Jedi: Bren (Archaeologist), Iirim (Healer), Zorru (Recruiter), Orans (Master), Aybekk (Padawan)
The Politicians: Varooth (Senator), Seirion (Aide/Spy), Ayrak (King)
The Mandos: Urziya (Rallymaster), Terr (Chieftain)
The Outlaws: Telen (Slicer), Majia (Pirate/Smuggler)
The Imperials: Athuuna (Agent), Zhekrazh (Lord), Z'ridia (Apprentice)

Offline Noth

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Re: Tales from Clan Noth
« Reply #1 on: 08/03/16, 10:41:34 PM »
(( Again, couple of you can play spot-the-character with this one! ))

The trip back was more or less uneventful, and the time in space gave Seirion ample time to talk to Aybekk, about what he had been thinking about, about the Coalition, about everything. Finding a quiet room was easy enough. Telling the whole story, though, that took more time.

"-- so, I thought, whatever I decide to do, I want you to be in on that decision," Seirion finished, after the tale was done. "You might be a Jedi, and I might be... whatever I am, but we're still jheren, and we're still brothers."

Aybekk's eyes had settled on the floor for most of the second part of the story. He could tell his brother was thinking, but what, he had no idea. Then, quietly, he repeated the word after Seririon: "Jheren." Aybekk paused, then looked up, meeting Seirion's eyes. "I- I know what that means. Didn't used to, but..." He breathed out, quietly. "I don't think that blood makes us clanmates, Seirion."

"Forget blood," Seirion answered, then gestured towards the marks on his brother's face. "You wear the jato of Clan Noth. You shed blood for your Clan. You're an adult, by every Iridonian law I know, and you're part of us. That means our work is your work, if you want it to be."

Aybekk was quiet a moment, then: "It's not that. I'm a Jedi. We don't have clans, or nations, or boundaries..."

"What about your friend, Maerin? What about the Blue down the hallway from us? They've got nations."

"It's not the same thing..."

"What about Master Orans? Pretty sure he feels different."

Aybekk frowned. "Master Orans has always made it very clear. I'm a Jedi, before I'm anything else. Being part of the Clan is my choice, not my duty."

Seirion furrowed his brow. Guess that answered that question. He sighed and sat back, looking down. "Alright. Guess I figured as much. So... What do you want to do?"

Aybekk sighed, frustratedly. "I'm not sure! I- I care, you know I do. But I've never felt really at home, there. It's nice, knowing my history, and knowing you, finally, but-- It's all so different." He paused and tugged at his braid. "The galaxy's different. There's not many places left to go. But--"

He broke off, staring in thought. Seirion waited a moment, then prompted, "But what?"

"The Custodum. They were going to be a last bastion, sort of thing. They had a ship. Warship sort of thing. Out on the edge of space. I visited, right after everything..."

Seirion nodded. He had been expecting an answer sort of along those lines. Still, there was a lot he didn't know. Now was the perfect time to ask though. "Why didn't you stay?"

"... Because Zakuul scared me." Aybekk looked at him again, wincing. "Scares me. But I'm too old, and I've trained too hard, to be afraid of anything anymore."

"Pretty sure Jedi get scared," Seirion said, a smile touching his face. "Even Masters. You want to check them out again?"

Aybekk was quiet. "I'd have to ask Master Orans," he said, after a moment, but gave Seirion a small nod anyway. "I miss everyone. And he's always saying, there's only so much he can teach without leaving the planet, and that's... hard for him, now."

Seirion nodded back. Aybekk's master was half cybernetics at this point, and old, and the sands and acid wear was getting to the old man's joints, Jedi or not. That, and trying to keep his work as a peackeeper on the planet's surface had taken up most of his time. "So what, he puts you on loan or something?"

Aybekk gave a small smile. "That's not unheard of, especially since I'm not a teenager anymore. I can take care of myself. Do my own missions--"

"--like running off after pirates and kidnappers--"

"--right, like that. But maybe not quite like that." Aybekk looked down. "I really should have given him more information before running off like that."

Seirion shrugged. "Important part is, you're safe. If you want to go find this flagship again, I'm sure he'll give his blessing. I just want you to know, I'm going with you."

Aybekk smiled, gave him a small nod of gratitude. "There's no guarantee they will accept you."

"Still," Seirion answered, "I'm coming. Look, you're not the only one with a, uh, pod in this race. I want to do good, same as you. And serving the Jedi, helping them, that's what I know." He looked up. "Truth be told, I'm a little tired of doing a bunch of councilor's work for them... I'm expendable and they know it. They might have sent me to the Coalition, but I'm helping because I want to." He frowned at Aybekk. "And I don't want to stay up worrying that you're not coming back."

Aybekk looked at him with concern. "Seirion... You'll be doing that no matter what I do. I might be a Knight one day. It's not a safe life."

"Yeah, but if I'm closer, maybe it won't feel so bad." The older brother let out a small hiss, then motioned for a cut-off before his brother could interject. "I know, I know, it won't help. But any purpose is better than being pulled in three directions."

Aybekk paused, then inclined his head, showing his acceptance, if not his understanding. "I still need to talk to Master Orans about it, you know. Don't make any radical life changes just yet."

"Not so radical. I'm on a ship full of Jedi already. What would change?"

The younger got to his feet, letting out a sigh. "Probably more than you'd think... I'll let him know. Maybe he'll even have some advice for you. But please don't get your hopes up over something that isn't certain."

"Aybekk, hope's hard to come by these days. Whatever I end up doing, it's good. I just don't want to do it alone anymore."

Aybekk nodded, walking over to the door, then paused and turned back. "Seirion? Sharee kiar het i'sharee linare.* Don't count me out yet. It's just... harder for me. You have to understand that."

Seirion smiled. "Shuree fej i'sharee linare, Aybekk.** Don't expect me to give up on you, ever. This rescue's not a one-time deal. That's something you'll have to understand, too."

Aybekk sighed. "I just don't want you to be disappointed if it's not allowed..."

"And that?" Seirion said, standing up as well. "That's exactly what caring for family means. And I think your fellow Knights here would agree with me."

Aybekk looked at him uncertainly, even stubbornly. Seirion laughed, gave the younger man a quick hug (again, before he could protest), and headed for the door.

"Think I'll see myself to the galley..." Seirion said, stepping through the door. "You go ahead and call home. Let me know what he says. I'll see you soon."

As the door slid back into place, he swore he saw Aybekk smile, before it clicked and whirred shut again. Good. Maybe if he loosened up a little, there would start to be some cheer in this dreary age -- and a continuation of the one good thing Zakuul had finally brought into the both of their lives.

(( * 'I care about my family.'

** 'You are my family, Aybekk.' ))
The Jedi: Bren (Archaeologist), Iirim (Healer), Zorru (Recruiter), Orans (Master), Aybekk (Padawan)
The Politicians: Varooth (Senator), Seirion (Aide/Spy), Ayrak (King)
The Mandos: Urziya (Rallymaster), Terr (Chieftain)
The Outlaws: Telen (Slicer), Majia (Pirate/Smuggler)
The Imperials: Athuuna (Agent), Zhekrazh (Lord), Z'ridia (Apprentice)

Offline Noth

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Re: Tales from Clan Noth
« Reply #2 on: 08/17/16, 03:17:25 AM »
(( A flash back in time... I jammed a few ideas into one conversation. Hope it's enjoyable. I may or may not write a follow-up if people seem to want that. ))

Bren practically skulked into the room, the look on his face a storm. Riodach was in the center of the room, legs folded peacefully, a smooth stone in his hands. The Jedi Master barely looked up as his pupil arrived, except to speak up after the youth had folded himself into one of the nearby chairs.

"Keyva? Or the sparring ring?" the Master asked, a steady note in his voice.

Bren blinked, then huffed a sigh. "... Keyva."

"You shouldn't take her so seriously," Riodach replied, opening his eyes to look at his student with a raised brow. "It doesn't become a Jedi to hold anger towards another. Or to sulk, like you're doing. Come join me."

With a quiet nod, Bren moved over to the mat in the center of the room, and sat in a mirror image of his Master, folding his hands in his lap instead of around an object. He looked at the stone curiously. Now that he was closer, he saw its smooth appearance was, in fact, water, tumbling around the object, guided by his Master's hands.

"... Isn't that a waste of resources?" Bren asked.

"The water isn't fit for drinking. It's as natural as it comes."

"Then--"

"The water's chemical composition will erode the stone more quickly than the water from our generator. But touching it for too long with my skin would make me ill. It is an exercise in focus, and to find peace in being always a hand's breadth from your work."

Bren studied the pattern, as the water moved around the stone. It was interesting, pretty to look at, still...

"But what are you going to do with the stone?" he asked.

Riodach laughed. He lowered a hand, and the water fell into a bowl between his knees. He lowered the other, and the stone floated to the floor harmlessly. He picked the object up and handed it to the Padawan.

"Take it, and tell me what you think."

Bren frowned, but took the object in his hands. The acidic water pockmarked and grooved its surface. His Master's shaping was far from done, but he could see a form beginning to emerge.

"It looks like a planet," he said quietly. "Maybe?"

"What else?"

"A sphere?" He looked up, giving the other a helpless look. "An egg? Pearl? Something round?"

"None of those are wrong." Riodach smiled. "But it's soothing to look at, isn't it? To touch? To see?"

Bren grimaced, putting the stone down softly. "Actually, I think my fingers are burning..."

Riodach laughed. "Yes, well... it does need to dry off. It will make a good focus for the smaller ones, practicing levitation. And a nice addition to a meditation room. But I want you look at it again, tell me what you see."

Bren squinted at the elder, suspiciously almost, then looked back down at the stone. Putting out his hands, he willed the Force to lift it into the air, getting a closer look at the object.

"It's... a stone. Sedimentary. You can see the striations under your wear patterns." He focused, trying to feel the object through the Force, touch without irritating his fingers again. "Some inclusions. Cryptocrystalline?"

"Why do you say that?"

"The breakage, you can't see much, but the way they feel. Clear almost, like they reflect the Force."

"Explain."

"I... don't know how else to explain. They feel like others I know, even though I can't see all of the pieces, only corners and sides. But I know they're there."

"Because you guess they are?"

"No," Bren said, frowning. "Because I can feel them in space. They're different from the rest of the stone. It's like I can feel their shape, or... I don't know how to describe it."

Riodach nodded. "You have a sense of the make-up of the stone, even though you cannot see. The Force tells you what your senses can't, not entirely." Riodach motioned for the stone, and Bren passed it into his orbit, the Master taking the stone and levitating it between them. "That's good. You're becoming more used to seeing with the Force, and not your eyes. Remind me of the Second Pillar."

Bren rolled his eyes. This was an all-too-familiar question. "Knowledge. The Jedi must have, seek, and protect knowledge."

"The work we do at our dig sites, in our laboratory, it's inherently destructive. Never forget that. To learn, we destroy. A Jedi researcher is a gift for our work. We can see, understand, learn from something without digging into the ground, or taking pieces away from it."

"We have technology for that."

"There are artifacts and features our technology cannot touch. Things in Sith ruins. Ancient alchemy. Even some metals that will reflect different sonic and rad-spectrums. And you will not always have your tools with you."

Bren shrugged. He had heard this lecture before. "Okay. But, how does that help me anytime else?"

Riodach fixed him with a disbelieving expression. "Bren, do you really not see the application of being able to sense things in the Physical Force?"

"No... I do." He rubbed the back of his neck, self consciously--and was reminded by the light burning on his neck why this was not a good idea at the moment. He drew his hand back and placed it dutifully in his lap. "None of this helps me with Keyva."

A smile passed the elder's lips. He raised his hand, bringing water back over the stone, continuing the meditation. "Remind me of the name of where we are."

"Tira'Noth."

"Meaning?"

"Colony of Clan Noth."

"Think harder."

Bren frowned. "Colony of..." He thought back, through pages of old etymology texts. "Water-guardian. Colony of the Water-guardians."

"An interesting dilemma, don't you think? Here, the surface water can sicken, strip trees, seep into the earth and make it barren."

"Erode bluffs, corrode metal, irritate skin..."

"--But beneath the surface, water is life, water is purified."

"Not all of it."

"Ah! No, indeed. Not all. Springs are rare. We are fortunate to possess one."

"Which... still needs purifying."

Riodach squinted at him, and Bren sighed.

"Sorry. Keep going."

The Master nodded, and spoke again, "Water flows through hidden places, pools in plain sight, can tear away mountains, nourish the needy, guide you to your destination, well up to bring the hidden into the light. It smooths and it gouges, it creates paths, it flows around obstacles."

"--Like the Force. This is ending with 'like the Force' right?"

"Yes. Like the Force." Riodach gave him a wry grin. "Stop interrupting. Your problem with Keyva. Observe what is around you, connect with our source, and do what a Jedi of Tira'Noth would do."

"Flow around the problem?" Bren asked, peering at him. "Or wear out my own path?"

"Or just be really, really acidic?" Riodach added, smirking. "Or did you have to stop yourself from adding that?"

Bren made a 'harumph'-ing sound. "I thought I was using restraint."

"Use that restraint to deal with your irritant Knight. And please, Bren, respect your elders. They might be rougher than what you're used to, but they have earned their place here as much as any other Knight of our Order."

Bren thought that over, then gave his master a small bow from his seated position. "I'll remember that. And try to take it to heart."

"And if all else fails, this is Iridonia. You can solve most problems with food, dance, and a good honor duel."

Bren laughed, standing up. "Yeah, I'm... not challenging a Knight to spar."

"Why not? It's a good way to learn." Riodach looked up from his work. "Don't be afraid to fail, my padawan. At the very least, you will know each other better. And maybe stop clashing orat*. And who knows?" He grinned. "You might give her a run for her money."

"Unlikely. I think I'll just talk to her."

"And that's the Bren I know..." Riodach smiled. "Go talk. Make your peace. When you come back I'll have a job for you to do."

Bren sighed, but gave him another small bow before going outside. Time to go make a new friend, or at the very least, a bit of peace.

((*horns))
The Jedi: Bren (Archaeologist), Iirim (Healer), Zorru (Recruiter), Orans (Master), Aybekk (Padawan)
The Politicians: Varooth (Senator), Seirion (Aide/Spy), Ayrak (King)
The Mandos: Urziya (Rallymaster), Terr (Chieftain)
The Outlaws: Telen (Slicer), Majia (Pirate/Smuggler)
The Imperials: Athuuna (Agent), Zhekrazh (Lord), Z'ridia (Apprentice)

Offline Noth

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Re: Tales from Clan Noth
« Reply #3 on: 10/10/16, 04:13:59 PM »
(( Thanks @LVT for the prompting for this! And for helping me out with Iirim's story stuff so far. :) ))

"I've made a horrible mistake," Iirim announced as he entered Urziya's apartment and almost immediately made a beeline for the kitchen.

"Oookaaay..." The Togruta paused in the middle of what she was doing--not that she had much choice--and followed her unusually irate friend to where he was currently sorting through all of her frozen food. "You're not going to find much in there but meat and--"

Too late. He already had a frozen slab of some poor animal in his hands, and was pressing it against his chin. Aside from the deep frown on his face under the blindfold-like mask, she could also see black and blue bruising patterning the skin under the makeshift icepack.

"What happened to your face?" she asked.

He didn't answer. Just got an even stormier look and moved away from the kitchen, over to a couch.

"And what's this about a mistake?" She went to join him, picking up her dinner where it was rudely interrupted.

The Miraluka shook his head. "Getting cocky," he answered, simply, temporarily removing, then putting back, the slab over his bruise. "I went to pick up the... thing I went to get, and I wasn't the first one there."

"The thing being whatever kark you're stealing from bad guys, right?" She gave him an unconvinced look. "Or is it good guys this time?"

The frown he fixed her with did not help his already sunny disposition. It faded, though, as he sighed. "... I don't know. I mean, yes, bad guys. This time. Gunrunners, among pretty much everything else. But there was someone else there first. Cut everyone in the building into tiny useless--" He pointed to the meat. "--this. Kept them alive just so they could squirm, apparently."

"Isn't that a good thing?" she said, baring her teeth a little as she smiled. "Bringing justice to the streets, that kinda thing."

"Pretty sure he wanted to do the same thing to me." He sighed again, paused. "And he had a lightsaber. And something to change his voice, mask I think."

"... sounds like a Sith."

"That's what I thought."

"You've got to stop hanging around Sith. Bad for your health." She cracked a smile, then frowned. "I mean it. You have too many Sith friends."

"Last I checked I had a grand total of one." He shook his head. "And I'm not sure if this guy was Sith or not."

She froze up, then breathed in, slowly. "Why not? Sounds like it. I mean, okay, Sith don't usually go after Nar Shaddaa gunrunners...."

"I'm pretty sure his robes were Jedi," Iirim answered. "At least, I think. The-- cut of them anyway. Kind of... old. But, maybe he was Zakuul. But that doesn't make sense either. And he was odd."

"Odd... how?" Urziya asked.

Iirim didn't answer. He just lapsed into thought again, holding the meat sullenly against his chin.

"Did you get into a fight?"

"Sort of."

"Sort of?"

"I fell on some stairs."

"You--" She stopped, blinked, then shook her head. "Y'know, I'm not going to ask. Force stuff is weird. I don't want to know." She put down her plate and got up. "I'm gonna turn on the holo and enjoy my evening. You're welcome to sulk on the couch as long as you want."

He didn't answer. Presumably, that was fine by him. She let out a sigh as she fiddled with the controls, leaning on the table as she stared at the flickering screen, flipping through channels and--

"Oh." She paused. "You're on the news."

"What?" He dropped the meat--now decidedly less icy--and focused on her again. "What do you mean?"

"I mean, your description, guy in a mask? Cuts people into tiny ribbons? News is saying he's some kind of criminal and--wait for it--he's got an accomplice." She paused, then looked back. "We need to get you a new coat. Like normal people who own more than just two sets of clothing. Maybe one of my brothers has something..."

"G-go back to the part where I'm an accomplice?"

"Guy in a mask and a brown coat, wanted for helping him cut gunrunners into pieces."

Iirim paused, then laughed, a relieved sort of sound. "Oh. That's fine. That describes about a thousand people on Nar Shaddaa..."

"Not if you keep showing up together."

"... It's fine, Urziya."

"Like how you befriending Sith is fine, or...?"

"It's fine." Iirim stood up, placing the meat awkwardly by her plate, then held a hand to his face and began to concentrate. Slowly, the dark bruising began to lighten, clearing up under the light of Force healing. "I'm just sort of shaken this week, that's all. I'll be back to normal soon. Been a bad few days, but it'll get better."

Urziya watched, trying not to stare fascinatedly as he healed himself. "You need a place to lay low for a little while?"

He thought about that, the bruise disappearing, then nodded. "If you can manage it." He stood quietly for a moment, then asked softly, "Do you ever feel like the Force is against you?"

"Since I'm not a Force-user, er... no. Not as a rule." Urziya frowned, then went over to stand closer. Just in case. "But I guess I know what bad luck feels like. I think you're being a little dramatic though. You had one job go wrong..."

"It's not... just the job." He dropped his hand, both hands disappearing into his pockets as he hunches slightly. "I like who I pretend to be."

"Mr. Flirty and Mysterious?" She rolled her eyes. "Yeah. Met him. Glad you gave up on that around me."

He frowned. "I was going to go with confident, but sure. That. But I get shaken and it's gone like that." He took a hand out to snap his fingers, weakly. "Then I'm back to Iirim Tal, some scared kid who doesn't know who is or what he's doing anymore. Or I bluff without thinking about it, do something stupid. Back home we called it clashing orat. It's not very effective."

She frowned a little. "... Lotsa people pretend when they're around other people. That's normal. You know, 'fake it til you make it'. You're not two different Iirims." She narrowed her eyes and squinted at him. "And you're not washed out, or however you're feeling, because one single job went wrong."

He didn't fill the empty space with words. She paused. He talked about home. He never talked about home.

"... Maybe your Jedi friend could help," she suggested, to break the silence. "You know, the one you were so upset about the other day."

"I really shouldn't have told you about that..."

"Well you did. You've got some crazy Sith? Ask your Jedi friend to help."

"He's not my friend, exactly."

"Thought you two were close."

"Yeah, we were..." He paused. "But I don't know him. I don't know what he wants to talk about. And I definitely don't know what he thinks of me." He sighed and rubbed his ear with the free hand, distractedly. "He's part of the problem anyway. Hearing he was around, wanted to talk, I'm too distracted and not focusing or thinking normally. I didn't really think anyone would find me after this long. 'Specially not..." He trailed off, focused on anywhere but her. After a moment of thinking, he said, "Look, I- I don't want to talk about this today. You said there was somewhere I could sleep?"

She pointed. "Over there. Got some blankets and a sleeping mat. Unless you want to sleep on the ship."

He shook his head, moving over to the indicated shelving. As he pulled out the supplies and set them up in silence, she wandered over to crouch by him.

"Force hasn't abandoned you, Iirim. Or turned against you. It's just bad luck."

"No such thing as luck," he whispered, unrolling a blanket.

"A friend who you thought you'd never see again found you right as you're having trouble with this weird... whatever he is. That sound like bad luck to you? Sounds like good luck to me."

He paused, brushing out the wrinkles on the sleeping pallet. After a second, he tilted his head towards her, a smile returning. "We'll see, I guess. Thanks."

"What friends are for." She gave him a warm smile, then stood up and wandered to the door, grabbing her blasters from the table. "But if you're being chased by Security and some weird masked man, I'm going to stand guard if that's alright with you."

"I don't think he's coming here. I don't think that description even sounds like me. Get some sleep, Urziya, finish your dinner, whatever you were doing before I barged in here."

She gave him a frown, then determinedly and pointedly settled in by the window, blasters in hand. She heard him sigh frustratedly, then a rustle of blankets, and quiet.

"G'night Iirim," she sang out.

No answer but quiet breathing. She looked back, trying to tell if he was actually asleep, or pretending to be, then dragged the holotable closer to her. If she was going to be doing an all-night vigil, might as well have something to occupy her while she did. It wasn't like she hadn't done this before for one sibling or another. Iirim just took up less space than hers.

"When you wake up, you owe me a story," she whispered to the other side of the room. "Full story. Not just non-answers."

And then, she thought, we can figure out how to fix it and what to do next.
The Jedi: Bren (Archaeologist), Iirim (Healer), Zorru (Recruiter), Orans (Master), Aybekk (Padawan)
The Politicians: Varooth (Senator), Seirion (Aide/Spy), Ayrak (King)
The Mandos: Urziya (Rallymaster), Terr (Chieftain)
The Outlaws: Telen (Slicer), Majia (Pirate/Smuggler)
The Imperials: Athuuna (Agent), Zhekrazh (Lord), Z'ridia (Apprentice)

Offline Noth

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Re: Tales from Clan Noth
« Reply #4 on: 10/11/16, 02:51:38 AM »
(( @Niarra spot your characters! I was unfortunately an idiot and unlocked this cutiepie on a character who already had one. >.< But I and Tira'Noth are still extremely grateful for you continuing to help out with the stronghold project. And this was too cute to pass up. ))

Jedi Master Orans Noth was growing old. Too old to go into the field. His days as a Jedi Watchman were becoming slightly more permanent with each exponentially extended trip from Iridonia to Tython, and Tython back to Iridonia. And so he had taken time to meditate on loss.

Tira'Noth had seen too much loss of late. The Enclave outside the city had a remembrance garden, stone pillars and a wall carved with the names of the fallen, a burning flame from a three-sided brazier reminding the Jedi who passed it of the Force and the peaceful eternity within it. The garden had grown when the war with the Sith broke out. It had grown even further with the invasion of the Zakuul Empire and the isolation of the Jedi from all Republic aid. As if the loss itself weren't bad enough, no new Younglings were brought into the fold--on Tython or at Tira'Noth--either out of fear, or the Force gone quiet, or simply not knowing that there were any Jedi left...

There was also physical loss. The Jedi's body carried more cybernetics than he really cared for, mechanics growing weather-worn and beaten-down from use and the elements. Orans had been a warrior in his day, and that had not been kind to him. His body, too, was beginning to slow, to fail, and despite the urging of his physicians, he refused to put any more mechanical bits inside his body. Death was a part of the Force, as was sickness, as was aging. He was content to accept that his days were drawing closer to him.

The hardest was the loss of his padawan. The last padawan he would ever take. Aybekk was a strong Jedi, bright, perhaps a bit too hard on himself, and still had much learning to do. And Orans could no longer bring him into the field, could barely spar with him any longer, could teach but could not give the youth any experience to serve him. He was old enough to begin his Trials, but did not have the skill under his belt. Orans knew it sometimes took more than one Master, and more than one Jedi, to teach their young. And so Aybekk's teaching had been shuffled over to his old Enclave, to the Jedi Custodum, to others more able-bodied and capable than he was to teach what the Padawan needed to know.

Even now, Orans sat with a datapad in his hand reading out a missive from a courier coming from the Deep Core: the boy telling him that he had found someone who might be able to take over his training ('with permission, of course'). The old man couldn't say it didn't bring a smile to his face. Loss, yes, but life went on. He had new things to focus on. Tira'Noth was beginning to rebuild. While they had fewer Jedi, they had resources once more, to repair, to furnish rooms, to educate the few Initiates they still had. They even had new members: Jheva, the Pureblood who Bren had brought, was beginning to settle in. And they had new allies, in the sanctuary of Talravin, and the resources generously given to them by Master Reymark.

One such gift was now being unloaded from a small shuttle coming down from the landing dock. The medium-sized box, with holes bored into the top and sides, became an instant curiosity to anyone in the vicinity of Tira'Noth's garden, where the courier dutifully placed it for the Jedi to open. Orans gave it a curious look, then hauled himself to his feet and clunked his way down to the lower level.

"What is this?" he asked, addressing the courier.

The woman gave him a small bow, tipping her hat. "From a Niarra Reymark, Master Jedi. New supplies, I think."

"Really now..."

The crate made a small screee noise, making some of the children who were poking at it curiously skitter backwards. Orans chuckled and went over to it, crouching down in a carefully measured series of movements to get closer to it.

"Let's see what's in here, hmm?"

He checked the datapad first, reading it over, then smiled warmly. Ushering a few of the kids back, he opened the front of the crate. With a small mechanical sound, it clicked open, revealing a very sleepy looking, tiny, varactyl, covered in green scales and radiant feathers. It looked up at him and made a noise that, if he remembered his reptavians correctly, meant it was looking for food.

"Kaz, you think you could run and get some meat for our new friend here?" Orans asked, looking at one of the youths.

The boy blinked, then gave the man a small bow, saying, "Yes Master! Right away Master!" before scamping off to the nearest building.

"What is it?" one of the kids asked, looking at it wide-eyed.

"It's an animal called a varactyl. This is a baby. But you have to be gentle with it, like any other baby."

The child nodded, still wide-eyed, then started to make small cooing noises at the animal and held her hands out. The varactyl imitated the noises, chattering back at the girl, but shying away from her hands. Orans smiled and began to read over the note included with the animal again. It seemed that Niarra bred the animals, and was offering one as a gift to their Enclave. The personal nature of the gift was not lost on the elder, who returned the datapad to its position and began to oversee the child's interaction with the creature. His train of thought was interrupted by the girl questioning him about the animal again.

"Can we eat it?" she asked, blinking at him. "She said it was supplies."

"We can, oen'kep, but we won't. This animal is a gift, and has been given into our care. And we will give it every hospitality. And I think your brother is doing just that as we speak." He pointed to the boy who was now returning with a box of cut meat for the varactyl. "Do you want to name it?"

She nearly squeaked as she said, "Yes. I get to name it?"

"Come up with a good one. These animals can live for a long time."

The girl looked absolutely thrilled as she began to talk to the varactyl again, this time listing off all the names she was going to give it. He made a mental note to invite Master Reymark to a feast one of these days. He wasn't sure if she knew the significance of the gift to the Iridonians, the alliances she was forging simply by her generosity, but he was going to repay it in true fashion if he could.
The Jedi: Bren (Archaeologist), Iirim (Healer), Zorru (Recruiter), Orans (Master), Aybekk (Padawan)
The Politicians: Varooth (Senator), Seirion (Aide/Spy), Ayrak (King)
The Mandos: Urziya (Rallymaster), Terr (Chieftain)
The Outlaws: Telen (Slicer), Majia (Pirate/Smuggler)
The Imperials: Athuuna (Agent), Zhekrazh (Lord), Z'ridia (Apprentice)

Offline Noth

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Re: Tales from Clan Noth
« Reply #5 on: 10/14/16, 01:51:08 PM »
(( So this is really... different... but I was going through my Iridonia Pinterest board and feeling inspired. Surprisingly, most of this is either canon or really well established fanon, though the dzouk and Zabrak evolution stuff is 100% my own headcanon and creation. I also made up that they have a red sun, but it was done by looking at the fanon and canon properties of the planet. Shout out to the Mother Machine and SW's ancient aliens though. Obviously all pics are of Earth animals or things from other IPs, so use imagination to SWify them. ))

From the records of Jedi Watchman Orans Noth:

Despite being a planet with a harsh, difficult environment, Iridonia plays host to a variety of animals, not the least of which are the Zabrak themselves. Those who visit this planet may be aware of the planet’s dangers, but not the particulars, so I’ve endeavored to create a small catalogue to educate our planet’s guests. As these animals are joined to us through the Living Force, so do these animals play a part in the lives of Iridonian Zabrak, and the Zabrak in the lives of these animals. It is a unity a stranger to the wilds benefits from observing, and bewares ignoring.



An unaware explorer meets a dzouk at their peril - learn the creatures of the wild before entering into it.

I will start with the small. The hugglepup, in Basic, and the bluthjhoal in Zabraki, is a small creature with a misleading name. Covered in sharp spines, this prey animal poses a danger to most predators, and may also use its spines to ward off Iridonia’s heat and sun. It’s primary sustenance is the blissroot, also called bluth, which is one of the few plants native to Iridonian soil. A quick look at the creature makes it very clear why the predatory ancestors of the Zabrak developed facial plating and a high pain tolerance.



A family of dzouk try to find a way past the hugglepup’s protective quills.



Blissroot - a hugglepup’s favorite snack.

Perhaps because the wildlife is so inhospitable, and certainly because we are a carnivorous species, the Zabrak have a great number of domesticated animals. Among these, the blok and lok are both related to the bantha, a family of animals easily adapted to a hot and arid environment. The bukk is a native herd animal of a smaller size, known for its hardiness and ability to eat anything, while the krag is a truly massive herd animal introduced to the planet from the colony-world of Frithia. Of a different nature is the bruth, a predator from the colony-world Lorista that was domesticated to serve the Zabrak and a population brought to Iridonia from that colony, which makes for a ready guardian or ally, in a similar manner as the anooba of Tatooine does today.



The blok, lok, and krag are all bantha-related domestic and wild herd animals.



The smaller bukk makes excellent use of Iridonia’s sparse resources.



The bruth is a predator brought from Lorista to Iridonia and domesticated.

Special mention must also be made of the Iridonian reek. The reek were one of the first species brought to Iridonia from another world, Zabrak spacers seeing potential in the animal as a war mount. Unlike other subspecies, our reeks subsist on the toughest plant matter our planet can offer, and have sharper horns than their cousins. They were bred for war. You will often see these mounts decorated in the same tattoos which decorate the skin of the Zabrak, even to the point of using the tattoos to mark which reek belong to which clan. Their skin is quite durable and can shrug off most bladed and blunt weapons. In current times they are not used for war much, but military students are still taught they skill, and reek-riding is a popular sport.



The Iridonian reek, a transplanted species, has grey skin and is very deadly.



An image of ancient Iridonian warfare, reek-riders bearing spears to battle.

Our planet is locked in tidal orbit, a product of our red sun, which also has a unique effect on the wildlife. Plants do not grow on the surface, at least, not in great numbers. (The reason behind the Zabraki word for ‘farmer’ - it is very close in origin to the word for ‘futility’.) This does not, however, apply to underwater life. There, plants can flourish, as can animals who feed on them. Fish are plentiful in Iridonia’s freshwater and saltwater bodies, but much of Iridonia’s water is acid, like our lakes and our rain. This breeds a particularly hardy kind of fish. It also creates legends, such as the feared devsta’rak, creatures which are rumored to live in the acid oceans and lakes and would wreak terror on Iridonia should they emerge. A single devsta’rak has yet to be spotted or recorded in our current science, however, and remain legends. (Personally, I feel this could be an artifact of contact with the Sith, a memory of Force Alchemy beasts, which despite our conflicts with them do not necessarily mean there are any such beasts on Iridonia.)



Algae flourishes in Iridonia’s acidic seas and lakes, making them bright green.



The fish of Iridonia are known for their hardiness.



The amphibious devsta’rak remains only legend - we hope.

When it comes to predators, the dzouk is of particular note. A large predatory animal perhaps related to the much smaller, more harmless, tooka family, the dzouk is one of the major predators of Iridonia, second to the Zabrak themselves. Biologists have theorized that our own origins lie with a similar species, who first hid their meals in trees, then took to them in greater hours, and so became brachiated and developed the hand structure we know today. When that species returned to ground, it became bipedal and lost the majority of its body hair to outrun, outstalk, and outlast the dzouk in our blistering home, and became the Zabrak. Others put forth the theory the Zabrak were engineered by an alien race who once dominated the galaxy, but any evidence for that is scant at best. Still others believe we were placed here by gods, but all our knowledge of the Force says that what others explain as gods is, in fact, the Force or simply legend. Myths of our origins are as plentiful as there are clans on Iridonia.



The dzouk is one of the primary predators on Iridonia, and perhaps a relation.



A Zabrak’s low-light vision, ears, habits, and natural coloration point to some relation to our other predatory cousins on this planet. Many jato are designed to emulate the markings of the dzouk or the flesh and bone of animals.

There are many other animals, of course. Reptiles, reptomammals, and mammals adapted for desert climates are found in many corners of the planet. One such animal, the triz, made an impact on the Zabraki language by giving us the word for mourning, as the animal compulsively buries its dead. Or perhaps this is merely a habit designed to keep scavengers from stored carcasses for food. It’s call is often interpreted as a sound of mourning and can be heard for miles. There is also a flourishing of flighted species as well, such as the zur (named for the sound of its wings), which perhaps inspired our own ancestors to the skies and then the stars.



A common prey animal, to fall at Zabrak blaster bolts or a dzouk’s claws.



This reptilian animal, horned as many Iridonian species are, has adapted well to the harsh environment.



Dzouks and reeks are not the only dangerous animal in the wilds.



The intelligent triz is known to bury its dead, repeatedly.



The zur - perhaps an inspiration for our forebears to touch the heavens.

I leave it to the reader to discover even more species for themself, and hope that this has inspired to learn, to see, and to take some caution, when dealing with Iridonian wildlife.
« Last Edit: 10/14/16, 02:35:35 PM by Noth »
The Jedi: Bren (Archaeologist), Iirim (Healer), Zorru (Recruiter), Orans (Master), Aybekk (Padawan)
The Politicians: Varooth (Senator), Seirion (Aide/Spy), Ayrak (King)
The Mandos: Urziya (Rallymaster), Terr (Chieftain)
The Outlaws: Telen (Slicer), Majia (Pirate/Smuggler)
The Imperials: Athuuna (Agent), Zhekrazh (Lord), Z'ridia (Apprentice)

Offline Noth

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Re: Tales from Clan Noth
« Reply #6 on: 11/03/16, 02:08:19 AM »
(( I don't know if this is all that good, but I've been picking at it for a while in various forms and thought it needed to be pushed along before it stagnated. Some timeline stuff might not properly fact-checked, feel free to ignore mistakes. >.> @LVT @Orell @Karmic spot your characters! @SivWysan hope this will help flesh these two out more for the guild. ))

Days ago...

Iirim was quiet, legs folded beneath him, a small scattering of objects placed on the floor around. Each of them was familiar. Each of them had gone untouched in years. His lightsaber, covered in intricate etching and textures he could feel, if not see. Some old robes, ones he was told were orange, but that he knew weren't always. The contents of an old utility belt, mostly depleted. A small pile of tablets covered in runes. A worn datapad.

Urziya had gotten tired of him taking over her living room and lent him her ship to stay in. It meant getting kicked out now and again when she needed it, or hitching unplanned rides along to wherever it was she needed to go, but that was alright. He had always traveled light. Habit, or necessity, he wasn't entirely sure. And something about being on a ship was peaceful, quiet, in a way Nar Shaddaa was not.

He almost missed the busyness and liveliness, but quiet was what he needed right now. It was hard to focus when he was almost certain he could feel the Viper keeping tabs on him and Urziya--maliceless, for now, but no less disconcerting than the first run-in. Iirim liked his private life private, and didn't much appreciate the possibility of someone intruding on his friend's either. Especially a Force-sensitive someone with a strong justice streak.

Life seemed determined to make him think. Iirim had stopped doing anything resembling regular meditation a long time ago. Life was too short and too dangerous for that, quiet and privacy was a luxury. Moving meditation was more his thing, thinking by doing, and doing without thinking. Sure, now and again he found a quiet ledge, or some unobserved moments in whatever place he was living in, but his thoughts then had always been to prepare. Empty his head of everything in it, feel everything around him, ready himself for whatever came next. Introspection was something he tried to avoid.

So what came next now?

He had not told Urziya the whole story. That he used to be a Jedi, she knew. That he was potentially on the run from the Jedi, she knew too. But she didn't know about Bren... not really, not beyond a vague idea. She didn't know anything about him. She didn't know that Bren was the only reason he was able to live on Nar Shaddaa in the first place, instead of being brought back for Force-knew-what at the hands of Jedi justice. And now he was here, back here, and looking for Iirim...

He knew his hope, even if it was an irrational one. He had no idea how much Bren had changed over the past decade or so since they had seen each other. But he hoped that it wasn't that much. He hoped that the man he'd been in love with, once, was still there--and still had faith in him. Iirim doubted he would ever go back to the Jedi--he had left for reasons that were still very fresh in his mind despite the long time since--but to know that Bren was on his side--

Then there was the fear. Bren was of Tira'Noth. Keyva, his old master, the one who wanted him dead or worse, was also a Jedi of Tira'Noth. He remembered Bren clashing with Keyva, when they were padawans together, and that Bren knew his side of things. But he also knew time changed people--their politics, their beliefs, even their memories--and all of this could be a trap. He wasn't sure which thought was worse--that meeting with him could be dangerous, or that Bren would be different from the man he remembered.

Either way, there was the third problem. If Bren did come out of friendship, what did he want? The Zabrak had been pretty clear about it when they were younger--Bren was a Jedi, with all the responsibilities and restrictions that entailed--so running away into the sunset together was probably not in the cards. If it was an ambush, well, there wasn't much to hope for there but violence. But there was always the chance that Bren would ask him to come back...

Iirim frowned at the air. Knowing Bren, or how he had used to be, that did seem the most likely. Bren had always been hopeful, even with the confusion around Iirim's leaving. What the Miraluka had told Urziya, about liking who he pretended to be, it meant more than just a self-image: Iirim Tal had been hiding safely behind masks since he was a teenager; everything then was another mask, and another life to go along with it. Who he was now was nothing like the man who was almost a Jedi Knight, if it hadn't been for his curiosity and passions.

Maybe that was the worst part of this scenario. Knowing that Bren, if he hadn't changed, was going to end up disappointed.

Iirim pulled the small datachip Harkasone had given him from his pocket, and began to turn it over, running the tips of his fingers over the grooves and bumps and lines. Bren was just a comm call away. But he couldn't do it just yet. He had to prepare. And he needed backup. While it might not be wise to trust a Sith in all situations, and it wasn't going to help his case if he did need to plead his innocence, he believed Karmic's advice about contingency plans was true. (And while he suspected her motives were... suspect, particularly given her reputation with ex-Jedi, he didn't think she had a reason to lie to him just yet.) He was thinking of this as a situation with failing outcomes. He needed to stop doing that.

Thankfully, he had a built-in contingency plan, one who was starting to be less of a friend, more like... clan, maybe. Iirim didn't know what it felt like to have siblings, but he knew what it felt like to have clan. Urziya was that.

He pocketed the datachip and stood, picking up the lightsaber as he did. It felt familiar, even though he only took it out now for dulons and particularly dangerous jobs, the metal calloused and etched with engravings that he could feel if not exactly 'see'. Placing the object on his belt, he gathered the rest of the items and put them away into their small pack. Iirim's life was mobile for a good reason. Today, that reason was more present in his mind than any other. Soon enough, he might need to be running again... and somewhere that he wouldn't be found.

Urziya would understand. She had to. She had been just a kid when they met, out to make a name for herself for the first time. Instead of finding a mentee, though, someone he needed to protect, Iirim had found someone who could keep up with him every step of the way, even surpass him--something that had been a blow at first, given that she'd probably been barely walking when he was taking his Initiate trials, but one he quickly got over. She was perfectly capable on her own.

And even then, he had a good sense of how she lived, staying on the ship. Everything about the starcraft was perfectly cared for, personalized, love and good credits poured into a ship of spartan steel and small touches of warmth, but also a sort of alarming weapons array. Her apartment on the other hand was barely furnished, and cheaply at that. This was a nomad's vessel if he'd ever known one. And a nomad might understand the need to run...

The present.

Iirim found Urziya sitting in her quarters, door open, staring at a box sitting at the side of the room. Normally, the Togruta's passive echolocation picked him up right away--it was a game, sometimes, to the two of them, seeing which extra-human sense picked up on danger first--but today, if she noticed him, she didn't say anything, or move. She had her hands on it, as if debating whether or not to open it.

The Miraluka entered quietly, siting cross-legged near her, and waited for Urziya to notice him there. When she did, she gave him a weak smile.

"Give your friend a call yet?" she asked.

"Who, Bren?" Iirim paused, then shook his head. "No. Not yet."

"Why not?"

Iirim rubbed his jaw. "Erm... Complicated." He let a moment of quiet pass. "I'm going over all the options."

She smiled softly. "You mean you're afraid of what could go wrong."

He gave her a small annoyed frown. "A little. Wouldn't you be? At least I have backup."

"You sure he's even still your friend?" she said, her tone teasing, but her expression still... concerned, he thought. She turned back to the box, and her frown followed.

Iirim shrugged, rubbing the back of his neck. "Even calling him my friend's not the whole truth. We were much closer than that. I don't know, but... I hope..." He trailed off. "What's in the box?"

She sighed. "Can't you use your Force vision on it?"

"Is it alive?" he asked.

"No."

"Then no, I can't."

Urziya stayed quiet, continuing to stare, then looked up at him. "Can I ask you something? Your favorite game. Story for a story."

"Alright," he said, slowly, shifting to sit more comfortably. "What do you want to ask?"

She nodded. "You said before you were close. Like... family? Or like lovers?" She paused. "Harkasone, you know, the other ex-Jedi, he calls his girlfriend his family. What do you think about that?"

"I don't know Harkasone's girlfriend," he began.

"No, no--" Urziya shook her head. "Family."

He sighed, then thought a moment before replying. "... If we'd gotten that far, probably lovers. The Jedi were my family. Bren's the only one who didn't abandon me, in the end."

Urziya was quiet at that. If anything, she almost looked angry. "So why'd you leave? Did the masters make you break up?"

"I don't think the masters even knew." Iirim gave a small shrug. "Well, maybe they did... But Bren chose the Jedi. I was hurt, but it's not why I left."

"But you said your family abandoned you."

Iirim nodded, a quiet passing before he started to speak again: "My master was... not a kind person." He fought off the knot forming in his stomach. "Battle was the only thing she knew. She'd have flourished if she lived a few hundred years ago, but, well, it was the Cold War. She didn't know how to have a padawan, let alone one who questioned things as much as I did, explored things I wasn't supposed to. Nobody bothered to see or stop it." He paused. "So I left. Violently. And I left Bren standing there trying to convince me to come home, and I just ran."

Urziya winced, then slumped a little. "Oh. Now I'm sorry I asked. I don't want to make you upset."

"I can handle it." He shook his head, then gave her an uncertain smile. It was partly to convince her, partly to convince himself that he was braver than he felt. "My problems will end, once I make that comm. One way or the other." He paused. "Why do you ask? Though... I'm guessing your problems are sitting in that box."

"That sounds like Iirim-speak for 'rip off the bandage'."

He laughed. "I mean... yes." He smiled more earnestly. "Not that I'm the best example. But it is your turn for a story."

Urziya hesitated, then sighed wearily. She shifted her weight, crawling to the box, then dragging it back to her. From the sound of it alone, he could tell it was heavy--very heavy. She paused, then looked up at him, then she tapped in a keycode, and slid the lid off of the box. Iirim moved closer to get a better sense of its contents, and found inside... armor, which even from here, his senses told him was thick and dense. The sort of armor that might dull his vision, and maybe a lightsaber as well.

"Is that--" he began.

She interrupted: "Beskar."

"--yours?" He trailed off, then let his fingers hover over the armor, before asking, "Why don't you wear it?"

"Why don't you wear a padawan braid?" she asked, frowning at him.

"Because I'm not a Jedi anymore."

She stared at him in silence, as if that should answer the question.

Iirim hesitated. "I didn't know you could stop being a Mandalorian..."

"You don't... sort of." She paused, then hunched sadly over the chest, looking at it. "Not by culture. But by your actions. By having honor. If you don't have that, you're not. Being Mando'a is what you do, and how people see you..."

"... and family?" Iirim asked, remembering the beginning of this 'game'.

"Yeah. And family. But family's part of the 'what you do' part."

Iirim thought that over, folding his hands back into his lap, rather than intruding on something so personal. "I might be wrong, but... Isn't wearing the armor also part of the 'what you do' part? You know... who you are?"

Urziya got a very determined look at that. She nodded, and lifted part of the armor out of its case. Looking at him, she said, "You can't tell anyone about this," she demanded. "You need to swear to me."

"About your armor?" he asked, confused.

"About what I'm going to tell you. My secrets. Mine for yours."

Iirim shook his head slowly. "I won't, I promise. Remember, I'm in the business of secrets."

"Selling secrets isn't the same as keeping them," she reminded him.

"I promise," he reiterated, intently. "You have my oath on it."

She gave him a strange look, then nodded, apparently content with that. Setting the armor in her lap, she began, "Some people in my clan, even in my family, think my parents are dishonorable. That they aren't following our ways. That they're not Mandalorian." She frowned. "My siblings and me, we're kind of a mixed bag. We all go our own paths. To hear the older generations yelling about it, that was fine in the 'old days', but those are over now. They think we weren't raised right. And that's-- well-- that's a huge deal, to us. It's sacred law."

"--Which your parents broke." He paused. "According to certain people."

Urziya nodded. "There's certain things you have to do. Certain Actions. Not every clan agrees on what they mean. I guess in every clan, even not all families agree. Or people in families. Certainly not mine. We're big. Really big. Lots of room for arguments. Especially since not all my ancestors were Mandalorian before the Wars." She gave him a wry smile. "Others were. So you can guess where this feud started."

"... It sounds like you agree."

Urziya frowned, not answering at first. Instead, she started to pull off her gauntlets, then unbuckling pieces of the armor, getting it ready to put on. "No. I don't agree. I did, but that's over now. I'm done with hiding out of shame, or not feeling good enough. I'm going to prove to everyone that I'm better than what they think I am. Starting with this." She pulled the chestpiece over her head, and began to tie off ends of it. "The first Action is to wear the armor. Another's following Mandalore, fighting when she calls. That's the whole point of wearing the armor in the first place, at least, if you're not a soldier." She paused, looking back at him. "And the Coalition's going to let me do just that."

Iirim breathed out, thinking. "... Alright. I get that. You fight, you reclaim your family's honor. Makes sense to me. But none of that sounds very... secret."

"That's not the secret." She finished with the chestplate, moved to the other pieces. The speed at which she suited up was quickening, become more like second nature. "I really thought you'd get it by now... Get why. It's like your masks."

"My masks?" Iirim frowned, then made a soft 'oh' sound. "My masks... the ones you can't see."

"Said it yourself, this armor's who I am." She sighed, her expression softening. "I start wearing this so people can see, I become me again. And everything that comes with that. I have to live by what I do. And you, you feeling like how people see you is who you really are? That's really Mandalorian, but--"

"... but you like your job, and you like your work, and you like who you are right now."

"I thought was true." She clipped a gauntlet in place, then gave him a smile, warm again. "But it's not. I'm not two different Urziyas. Who I am is still me, it's always me. I'm not going to run from anything, anymore." She paused. "You shouldn't too."

"I'm not running..." Iirim said, weakly.

"That's bantha shit. Why haven't you called your ex?"

Iirim would have glared at her, if he had the means. As it was, he simply frowned. "Why'd it take you this long to pull out your beskar?"

Urziya frowned right back, then sighed. "I guess I... I got used to being on my own, being my own person, my own goals."

"Now your goals align with your people."

"And I thought, if they're right, I'll just bring more shame down on me?" She stood, taking the last pieces out of the box to finish the set. "Shame's like a dart, like that. It needles its way through chinks and stays there. I can't let it get me." She paused to give him a smile. "And speaking from someone, who 'lost' their family, to someone who lost his..."

"Not exactly the same thing."

Urziya grinned. "Why are you running, Iirim?" She shook her head. "You're like family you know. Two of us, like-- two orphans who survived together. But neither of us really are. Orphans, I mean. We're alike that way."

"... not the only way, it seems," he said, quietly. He had assumed Zakuul scattered her clan, before. That she didn't talk about it because of that. As it turns out, they were both running from who they were. He smiled, a wry sort of smile. "I'm guessing you have some kind of advice you're working up to."

"I think you're running because you're ashamed. Not 'cause what you're afraid of is out there." She looked at him, and her grin turned into a worried frown. "And if this Coalition thing doesn't go well, you might be running out of time to get your backup. You should call your friend. No one should be without their family."

Iirim sat quietly, then, carefully: "You're a bit too observant sometimes for someone ten years younger than me."

"I just know you better than you think." She smiled. "I mean it. You're like one of my brothers. Maybe less orange." Her smile widened. "You want, you can come home with me next time, make it official."

"... Mandalorian's not on my list of back-up jobs. And historically, Jedi and your people don't get along very well."

"Ex-Jedi," she reminded him, then sighed. "And you're closer than you know. I've seen your backup jobs list."

"--That's in my head--"

"I've heard you muttering about it." She smiled. "There're a lot of not-too-far-off things on it. And... you'd fit in better than you think you will. Your 'judge me by my actions' attitude, your mercenary ways, and I know there's a warrior's heart in there somewhere you don't bring out much. But I won't pressure you."

"Urziya..." he began, trailing off as the sound of her movement stopped. "You said, this might not go well?"

She got quiet for a moment, then: "Baby steps. Family lives together, which you're already doing. Family also fights together, and stands with each other. When you meet your friend, I'm your backup." She paused, then addressed his question, "And if you want, you can join the fight. With the Coalition. I've heard the hum of your lightsaber past few days in the hold." She tapped a montral. "It's hard to miss." Another pause. "I'd really like you to fight with me."

He hesitated. "I'll think about it.."

"You keep your belongings in a pack you can throw over your shoulder at a moment's notice. You're a nomad, like me. What's there to think about?"

He paused, sighed. "It depends on how this meeting goes..."

She nodded, though her stance seemed disppointed. "Alright. I have a holo-call to make. See how many of my family want to win back some honor, too." She gave him a small smile, then pointed at his chest. "Call your ex. Just remember, if he tries to murder you, I'll shoot him. You've got until we raid that generator, then I'm gonna be preoccupied. Alright?"

"Alright," he said softly, running a hand through the back of his hair.

As she walked off, he resisted the urge to listen in, and instead turned his thoughts inward. She was right, in some ways. Maybe it was shame holding him back. Shame for running... shame for leaving his master in the state he had... shame over what Bren might think of him. He uttered a loud sigh, and got to his feet, padding over to where he kept his pack. He could, at the very least, key the comm number in. That way he'd be ready when the time came to make the call, and he could put it off for less time.
« Last Edit: 11/03/16, 02:56:13 AM by Noth »
The Jedi: Bren (Archaeologist), Iirim (Healer), Zorru (Recruiter), Orans (Master), Aybekk (Padawan)
The Politicians: Varooth (Senator), Seirion (Aide/Spy), Ayrak (King)
The Mandos: Urziya (Rallymaster), Terr (Chieftain)
The Outlaws: Telen (Slicer), Majia (Pirate/Smuggler)
The Imperials: Athuuna (Agent), Zhekrazh (Lord), Z'ridia (Apprentice)

Offline Noth

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Re: Tales from Clan Noth
« Reply #7 on: 11/12/16, 10:03:45 PM »
(( Found an old drabble I didn't publish from waaaaay back when I first came back after hiatus. Tar Va was Zabrak at this point, he might not be now, I haven't decided, but I didn't feel like editing the old drabble too much. @Seraphie spot your character's influence! Anyway, it fit really nicely with a few I was already working on, so I mushed them together into one. No promise of quality. ))

The not-so-distant past.

Bren settled into the pilot's seat of his small ship, switching on the comm system. The holo crackled and shifted as it appeared, distorted by the layers of encryption it was going through. He didn't want this message to be overheard.

A familiar face smiled on the other side, an older Zabrak, jato worn into deep lines in his skin by time and the creases of age. Tar Va, Tira'Noth's archivist, and an old friend.

"Ah, my student returns!" Va said, a smile on his face. "Did you make any progress?"

"More than I'd hoped to make," Bren replied, returning the smile with a nod. "I have good news and bad. Which would you rather hear first?"

Va raised an eyebrow. "Let's begin with the bad. Then plan for the good."

Bren nodded. Truth be told, that was his preference. He had a proposition he wanted the Master to listen to after he broke his misgivings. "Well, for the short-term, I think I have a lead on our smugglers. Local in Nar Shaddaa suggested I look at shipping ports which hold no allegiance. I went from hundreds to a handful."

"Hm, that's good." Va nodded. "I can think of certain people who'll be pleased to hear that. Me among them."

Bren smiled, gave him a nod. "That's what I'd thought. Let me guess... nobles breathing down your neck? Speaking of, the long-term, is, uh... Well, how deep do your connections go to Clan Noth's nobility?"

"They trust me," Va answered, raising a brow. "Despite the Republic's official position, they don't seem to understand the concept of 'unallied' Jedi. I can't decide if they're being stubborn, or if they're just too used to the benefits of having an Enclave nearby."

Bren smiled wryly, but rubbed his forehead. "Of course. Who needs the Republic's consent when you have a bunch of Zabrak nobles being stubborn and foolish?"

"Careful what you say. That foolishness has let us continue to help people," Va reminded him. "Without their support, unofficial or not, it would be much harder to pursue this quest of yours. Think of it as helping your clan, if it makes you feel better." The elder paused, peering curiously at him through the holo-image. "Why are you asking?"

Bren paused, then sighed. "I don't like that they've put their support behind me. That they're gambling the lives of the Clan like that. If something goes wrong, and people find out I'm hunting down Jedi artifacts, and not old Iridonian ones, they're going to connect me with those official credentials. And that's bad for everyone. You need to convince them it's not safe."

"Yes... They are... awfully stubborn." The old man chuckled, then added, "You know, they were very proud, to have our Enclave in their Stronghold. I don't think they like it going underground. I have my hands full just trying to convince them not to rebel openly."

"--and they assume that blending into the general population means we're at their beck and call, yeah, I'm gathering that." Bren rubbed his forehead. "Helping the Jedi is good enough for me. But... you can pass on I'm grateful for the support. And the token of their support. It'll help if I run into trouble. Just..."

He trailed off, furrowing his brow as he thought. Evidentally, the pause went on too long, since even through the distortion, he could see Va raising a brow at him, fixing him with a questioning, stubborn look. It was a very familiar look, one he'd had to sit through for years as a padawan doing research. Tar Va wasn't keen on asking his questions out loud, more prompting questions in his students to research themselves, but he sure knew how to make someone feel put on the spot with a glance. Bren knew he wasn't likely to speak until he had finished his thought.

With a sigh, Bren continued: "I still don't like it. I had a long talk with a local the other day. At least... I think he's a local. On Nar Shaddaa, who knows who's telling the truth? It's exhausting. Telling people I'm on clan business, like I'm here for Clan Noth--"

"--which, you are," Va interrupted. "Albeit, not official business."

"--Right. Instead of Jedi business. Can't say 'oh, well, you see, my clan has this Enclave...'. Spent all this time there, but I know my accent's wrong, it slips back and suddenly I sound like I'm from a Core World, not a Mid-Rim World. You follow? I'm tired of carrying a zhaboka, instead of a lightsaber."

Va nodded, slowly. "That is why you have the credentials you do. Jedi or not, tell those who question your missions that with the Jedi withdrawn, Clan Noth can still claim its heritage."

"Right. Because people who aren't Force-sensitive love to just hoard holocrons they can't open." Bren ran his fingers through his hair, thinking. "No, no, you're right... I'm prepared for that. I have to be. Still... Cut someone with a vibroblade, they'll bleed out. Cut someone with a lightsaber, they might survive. Someone will find me out eventually. I'd rather not fight, and not put those who'd support us in any danger."

"Use your words, and maybe you won't have to cut anyone at all," Va reminded him. "Remember your purpose. Remember who we are?"

"... Jedi?"

"We are the Jedi of Clan Noth. We are Guardians of Water. We bring life where there is none. We bring peace, where there would be war. We keep knowledge, and draw on that well. We know that keff is just another word for the will of the Force, and we follow it--"

"--like you follow a stream. I know."

"And through the Force, we are immortal. We endure." Tar Va smiled, gesturing to the fresher scars on his skin. "My tangle with the Zakuul Knights was enough for me. I'd be with you if I could, but my duties keep me. This was your quest. Don't tell me you're giving up now. When you messaged me, you said there was good news, but I have yet to hear it."

Bren paused, thinking, then nodded. "I paid a visit to Alderaan the other day."

"Alderaan's a bit out of the way..."

"We're not alone," he said, quietly. "On Alderaan, I found others. An Enclave. Like us. Dormant, quiet, but not all gone, not abandoned. I think... I think it would be good to reach out. They have an Archive that I've yet to see matched outside of Tython."

"Well guarded?" the elder asked.

The younger Jedi nodded. "Guarded, and hidden. I spoke to their caretaker, and to a friend in the Enclave. Maybe it would be good to build connections, stop working so underground. It would be a great help on 'my quest', as you put it."

"And a moment ago, you were worried about running into trouble..."

Bren gave a wry smile. "Well, you want me to see through other eyes, right? Look to the Enclave, with the Order in pieces? Here's something you taught me: Working together builds an end to war."

Tar Va sighed, then repeated quietly,"Frith yemasla ah tze'vysht. Yes. Cooperation creates a peace."

"Maybe if we make new friends, we'll have a better chance of outlasting this crisis," Bren replied. "It's a thought, anyway. I'll wait for you to give the go-ahead before doing anything, er, foolish."

"You just want to look at their holocron database..."

"The thought did cross my mind." Bren grinned. "They're very accomodating. You'd be proud. They exemplify the virtue of welcoming."

Va made a sound halfway between disbelief and amusement. He shifted, and could be seen tapping a few buttons. "Well, if you're that eager to make new friends, some friends of our own sent out a request for aid. There's an expedition happening, on Coruscant. Seems you're not the only one hunting for relics that might soon be forgotten or lost. Something you're interested in?"

Bren raised a brow, interest clearly showing through already in just his expression. "Send me a packet. I'll be there."

The past.

Bren woke to Iirim shouting in his sleep. The Zabrak lookeded up blearily, then tossed his feet out of bed and padded over by memory as his eyes adjusted to the dim light inside the padawan's quarters. He crouched by the Miraluka's bed and shook his shoulder, gently.

"Iirim, wake up-- You're dreaming."

The other shifted, stopped moving around. A quick intake of breath told Bren that he was awake.

"Wh-- Bren?" A pause. "... I was talking in my sleep, wasn't I?"

"Sounded more like you were yelling at someone, but yeah." Bren gave him a grin. "Normally I'm the one having nightmares. You okay?"

Iirim was quiet. Bren heard the swish of hair against cloth as he shook his head, then slowly sat up. "... You go stargazing, when you have nightmares, right?"

"Sometimes," he answered. "Sometimes I just sit, meditate, practice..." He trailed off, then got another smile and tugged at Iirim's arm. "Come on. It helps."

"I can't see the stars," Iirim protested, but was already in motion, grabbing his boots from under his bed. He threw a cloak over his undertunic and stood, following Bren towards the door.

Tira'Noth was quiet, though 'night' and 'day' were concepts decided by distance on Iridonia, not time. There was still, however, a natural pattern, particularly as Galactic Standard time was enforced for the Jedi (all the better to synch up with other planets should a mission arise suddenly). The settlement grew quieter during certain times, padawans slept, the Enclave was deserted as Knights and Masters retreated to sleep or meditate or confer behind closed doors. The two moved quietly around the circle of chairs and fire outside the padawan's quarters, past the watchful gaze of robed guards on the wall, through the library where the datastacks were the only other noises, and up and out into the desert outside the colony walls.

The sky above was endless, eternal twilight around the clock. Northwards, the desert shone brightly under distant sunlight under the horizon, a plateau that had once held water of some kind, now flat beds sheltered by rocky cliffs expanding into the distance on either side. Bren knew that this was the reason for their fresh water below the Enclave, some ancient seepage that purified itself over time. He also knew how every rock, stone, and formation in the area came to be. Master Riodach had made sure he learned that. Southwards, purple twilight continued, and the mountain only grew more multiplous and sheer, the rugged acid-soaked highlands that Iridonia was famous for. Above them, though, purple faded into acid blue, a reddish violet covered the skies, and stars dotted the heavens, crossed only by the two large orbs of the moons tracking the months across the sky.

When they were a safe distance from the Enclave--not too far, but not so close the lights obscured the sky--Bren stopped, turned his face upwards, and sighed, closing his eyes to listen to the wind howl distantly through the mountains, and pick up sand and dirt in skittering flurries across the dry bed.

"We don't want to get too far out," Iirim reminded, quietly. "If a storm picks up we'll end up alone out here."

"Guards'll come looking. Or our masters." Bren looked back, opening his eyes and smiling unconcernedly. "You need to get far enough away it's just you, the sky, the wind, and the Force."

Iirim made a small huffing noise, an amused smile crossing his face, which was better than the anxious twist that had been there before. "That's very Zabrak of you," he observed, then hesitated a moment, before reciting, "Ush meni tze'keff id d'bir..."

"--eit natelkosta nivaren de,"* Bren finished the line, sitting down and offering a hand to pull Iirim down with him. "Stars always move."

Iirim hesitated again, then sat, letting out a long breath as he did. "Since when do you study Iridonian poetry?"

"Since Riodach thought I should learn some history." He paused, gave Iirim a sheepish sort of smile. "And, uh, well, since hearing you sing it."

"Doesn't he always?" Iirim grinned, then hunched over. "You always just listen to what your master tells you?"

"Of course I do. He's wise. Little... odd professor, but he's wise." Bren smiled, then it faded away as he looked at Iirim's face, the way he was sitting. "He also says it's good, for the nightmares anyway, to get them out. Art, music, poetry." He paused. "Notice you don't sing much anymore."

Quietly, Iirim muttered, "Keyva thinks it's a waste of my time. I shouldn't focus on anything old poets sing about, just the present."

"Yeah, well..." Bren tilted his chin, starting out with bravado, then softening into something more like empathy. "... Keyva's not here. Just you and me."

"And the Force." Iirim snorted, then abruptly started laughing. "Sorry, that sounds like something supervisors tell kids at a- at a party. You, me, and the Force between." The laughter sounded sharp and loud, echoing against the mud-cracked plain. He trailed off, then sighed and lay down, head tilted towards the sky. "Guess that's appropriate. What do you see up there anyway?"

Bren frowned, giving him an odd look, then lay down as well, side by side, staring where he was. "What, the stars?"

"What do they look like? What calms you?"

Bren shifted his gaze, looking upwards as well. "They're like... little points of fire, burning in a tapestry of colors. Beautiful, I guess. Every one's a sun, some of them even have worlds." He paused, looked back at Iirim. "Plus, you couldn't see the stars on Coruscant. Too much light pollution. When I got here, it was something new... something different. Master Tar Va showed me how to look, taught me the constellations. Guess it... reminds me I'm not alone."

"Not alone..." Iirim echoed quietly, then gave Bren a weak smile. "I don't know what fire looks like either. It's just a ripple of air to me. Not bright. Out there is just-- emptiness." He shifted to turn back to the sky, but moved closer to Bren. "Endless, terrifying, nothing. I guess if you want to feel small..."

Bren frowned. "But... not everything's dark, is it?"

Iirim let out a quiet breath, then looked back to Bren, turning his face away from the terrifying sky. "... People. People are bright. Plants. Animals. Living things. They glow, sort of. Like you're sort of... everything has a different color."

"What color am I?" Bren asked, a small grin appearing.

"I have no idea what colors to compare it to, since I can't see how you do," Iirim reminded him, but warmth was returning to his face. "But you're sort of between a plant and a Jedi, or, uh- Tar Va and Keyva. Keyva's really bright, sometimes, sometimes darker."

Bren paused, then laughed. "... I'm a plant?"

"Some plants. Not all plants."

"Force-vision sounds confusing."

Iirim laughed. "Yeah, it probably sounds that way..." He paused, then smiled. "I think my emotions change things too, how they look. Sometimes you're really bright. Not like a holocron bright, but like that shrine we went to. Sort of warm."

Bren smiled, then paused, feeling something tight clutch at his hearts. He turned over to face Iirim more directly, frowning slightly. "You know, I'm by your side, always, right? Keyva might be ... frustrating, but I've argued with her, too, sometimes for you. You're not alone. I won't let you be alone."

"Pretty sure a master or two will have something to say about that..."

"I come armed with precedent," Bren said, a smile on his face. The smile didn't make the knot go away. Or the sinking feeling that Iirim was right. "And, besides that, I'll still always be here. No matter what."

Iirim was quiet for a moment, but he turned to face Bren anyway. For a few seconds, that was all there was--quiet, the stars, Iirim's face frowning thoughtfully as he seemed to stare past him. Quietly, he answered, "Yeah... I know."

"So what was your nightmare about?" Bren prompted.

"It doesn't feel important anymore." Iirim smiled, briefly. "What are nightmares usually about?"

"Sith," Bren said outloud, without having to think hard about it. Then, silently, added, 'You. Losing you. Finding you dead. Watching you Fall. Falling myself...' He kept talking: "Usually Sith. Sometimes being chased by dzouk."

"What about the future? You have vivid dreams, don't you? Ones that show what's happening elsewhere, sometimes?"

"... Master Riodach tells me to take those with plentiful heapings of salt."

Iirim smiled, then added more earnestly, "What about the past?"

"I'm going to go with more salt." Bren frowned. "If you think you're having a vision, you should tell Keyva, and Tar Va. I'm sure Riodach will help too. They can work out what it is, if it's true or not..."

"It's not a vision." Iirim sighed. "I think I'm just spooked by that artifact we brought back."

"Sith?"

"Yeah... Had carvings. Told a story. Gruesome one." He paused. "Keyva's convinced they're just biding their time. Waiting to attack."

"Maybe you're having nightmares because Kevya lives in an eternal state of fear," Bren said, a dry tone to his voice. "No offense to your master, but she's worse than those people here who build bunkers and stock them with blaster rifles and food packets in case the Mandalorians come back."

Iirim smiled, seeming to cheer up at that. "Yeah. You're right. I shouldn't let her get to me."

"I think you should start singing again," Bren answered, a smile on his face. "It'll help with stress, and-- the Enclave could use some more singing."

"You just want me to write you a sonnet..." Iirim smirked as he sat up, brushing dust off his robe.

Bren laughed from the ground, then clambered to his feet. "Why? You want to write me a sonnet? Because I definitely won't refuse a sonnet."

"Uhuh." Iirim got to his feet as well, tugging on his braid and twirling it between his fingers as if to remind himself it was there. "Thanks."

"Always," Bren answered, giving the other young man a warm smile. He pointed towards the lights of the Enclave, and the Clan City above it. "We should get back before everyone wakes up for morning. It's probably nearing five."

Iirim gave him a nod, and a faint, familiar smile, but hesitated a moment. Bren returned the expression, then tilted his head back towards the city and motioned for them to move. The two made their way back towards the settlement, small shadows underneath the endlessly twilit sky.

*The Force is without change as the sky, yet within stars move.

The present.

Bren was pacing. He should have been meditating. His duel with Telline, his discussions with Dassalya, they all made it very clear that his mind was not focused, and not in the here and now. Meditation would help with that, yet, every time he tried, the past welled up in front of him, instead of fading quietly into the background as it was meant to... Clearing his head of the static left ample room for memories to spring out of the shadows. Memories to puzzle over, to pick apart, to bring up troublesome emotions. If there was a way to let go, meditation wasn't it.

Still, he stopped, focused his breathing, and let it out, slowly. The Zabrak sat cross-legged on the floor, folding his hands in his lap, palms upward, hands held in memetic, sacred, gesture. Perseverence, he reminded himself, was as much a Jedi value as patience.

All his searching came to nothing, if Iirim didn't call him. The silence on the comm channel bothered him more than he cared to really admit. Yes, he loved Iirim. That hadn't stopped, even with his choices. Whether the Iirim who lived now was anything like the one he knew, well... that was another story. It didn't change the fact that this problem was overtaking his mind.

"This is why Jedi don't have families," Bren muttered to himself. He let the thought fly away as soon as he voiced it. There was bitterness in it, and he did not need that. Iirim did not need that either, whenever their paths crossed again.

Why was he so invested in this?

Yes, there was love there, but not hope for it. Some Jedi followed their paths because they believed in justice, or felt they had no other options, but Bren followed his out of... reverence, he supposed. Piety. He missed Iirim, but knew if he had to make that choice again, he would probably make the same one. His oaths were important to him. Even if those oaths were hard on his heart.

Then, there was fear. Maybe it wasn't love, but fear that occupied his mind. Who was Iirim now? The rumor went he was an info-broker. That seemed... very far from the Iirim Bren had known. Bren had known a man who was reckless and thoughtful, a hunter and a poet, always the first to do something ill-advised, but also the first to worry about the consequences after. Skulking in shadows seemed opposite of what he expected. If that had changed, what else had?

Sorrow? Bren paused his steady, intentional breathing, thinking on that. No. There was an undercurrent of it, regret, that uncomfortable mix of anger and sadness. But it was just that, an emotion, an undercurrent. It didn't define him, or his relationship with Iirim, or the way he did his job as a Jedi. The emotion he was struggling with was something else.

Turn the question around, then. Why did he want Iirim to come back? None of the other emotions were a reason why, they had already been examined. So what was so frustrating about this silence?

When he arrived at Tira'Noth, Bren had hated it. He was an outsider, and the deaths of his clanmates from Initiatehood were all still fresh in his mind. Iirim changed that. Iirim was more Iridonian than Bren was, at least to start with. He could hunt and clean a kill, knew if a storm was coming by the scent in the air, could name the jato of every clan in flying distance from them (even though he could not see the designs), and spoke like a native, in contrast to Bren's very Core-ward accent and extremely broken Zabraki. The Force seemed to naturally flow around him, too, everything he did seemed easy. And he could heal, unlike anyone in Bren's age group, even unlike some Knights.

It was only after getting to know Iirim that Bren realized he tried harder than he had to, because he felt like an outsider, as a non-Zabrak, because his master pushed him to be almost impossibly good at the skills she valued. He learned Iirim only became a healer because it would piss Keyva off. And he learned that his admiration of him was something a lot... more than that.

Maybe there were warning signs. Maybe Bren had been blind to them because of what he felt. But maybe Iirim was, really, a great Jedi, and meant to be a great Knight on top of that. Maybe his failure of his Trials--Trials that, for the most part, they had taken together--was a tragedy.

That was it, then, wasn't it? All things were the will of the Force. Iirim's failure, Bren finding him again, it all felt too neat. As if perhaps the Force was trying to indicate a Trial had been passed in exile, and it was time to come home. Or maybe... that was just Bren's hope.

He sighed, picking himself off the floor and shaking off the cold of space that had seeped into his clothing. He was closer to an answer, anyway, even if it didn't make him feel much better. He, at least, felt more prepared for the meeting if it did happen. Bren grabbed a cloak and tossed it over his shoulders, heading out towards the door--

A noise stopped him in his tracks. He turned around, then slowly returned to the tiny quarters. The comm was blinking. The comm.

Bren stared for a moment, until something within stirred him to action. Waiting would just make him leave. He took a deep breath, reached out a hand, and pressed the button to open the call.
The Jedi: Bren (Archaeologist), Iirim (Healer), Zorru (Recruiter), Orans (Master), Aybekk (Padawan)
The Politicians: Varooth (Senator), Seirion (Aide/Spy), Ayrak (King)
The Mandos: Urziya (Rallymaster), Terr (Chieftain)
The Outlaws: Telen (Slicer), Majia (Pirate/Smuggler)
The Imperials: Athuuna (Agent), Zhekrazh (Lord), Z'ridia (Apprentice)

Offline Noth

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Re: Tales from Clan Noth
« Reply #8 on: 01/13/17, 07:39:37 AM »
(( This is the aftermath of this thread. Tagging @Niarra and @Kremon for this awesome storyline! And @LVT and @Karmic since Hark and Karmic makes a cameo appearances. ))

Bren's healing was going slower than he wished.

Physically, he was healing well. It was what the medics kept saying. It's what Master Reymark kept saying. Even Hark had said it, when he visited... It still seemed slow. The stims, the trauma to his chest, and the shocks had done a number on his internal systems, and was currently healing by some combination of talented medics, Niarra's Force healing, and sheer strength of will. His skin had healed, more or less, with the aid of grafts and many, many hours in a kolto tank. The wounds on his face had sealed into ugly scarring that moved around seemingly without pattern. His horns had been smoothed over, sealed, so that it was not so raw. Still, he had to wear a headband, to distract himself from touching the sensitive ends of bone where it was still healing over.

His facial tattoos, on the other hand, were almost completely obliterated.

Bren was starting to grow used to the scarring that was forming over the cuts and grafts that repaired his face, but the absence of his tattoos--his jato--still felt like an open wound. Tar Va had paid him a few visits already, and had tongue-in-cheek reminded him that jat'aj--deliberate or aesthetic scarring--were considered to be beautiful, though Bren quickly reminded him that his scars were far from decorative or pleasant accidents.  He was not the only one. Non-Jedi who passed through the medcenter or on his brief trips outside the building were not shy about their staring and their hushed words when he thought he could not hear them. "Meni for shar ah'kelo?" was the most common. Is he an outsider now? An exile? It was always spoken with hesitation, uncertainty, like they were worried about even asking it. Bren never heard the answers, but no one had treated him unkindly yet, or tried to kick him out of the medcenter. Some traditions, it seemed, were meant to die. Still, the looks, the whispers of the archaic word, reminded him of it. He tried to ignore it, to remind himself that he was a spiritual being and not his body, but as he had told Niarra when the healing sessions started, what he had just been through, the care in which he had to move while he was still healing, had jarred him back into a recognition of himself as rooted in physical space.

The mental and spiritual healing, that would take longer.

On good days, he found his way back to the Enclave grounds, spent his time meditating in the artificing room. Crystals uncovered from digsites or brought from Tython lined the walls, while meditation stones, a watchful statue of a Jedi Knight, carefully tended plants creeping along the walls, and an impressive lightsaber forge brought a small sense of the Core into the acrid Mid-Rim world. Shelving and storage took up the rest of the walls, save for one large holoprojector that cast stars, moons, and planets through the air with a meditative, constant, humming. Exephos had taken his lightsaber, but Bren had learned several meditations ago that he was not yet meant to build a new one. Now, he simply listened, and tried to clear his head of the shadows in it. A familiar feeling haunted him now, much like it had haunted him after the Sacking of Coruscant. Whatever Exephos had done had torn open a very old wound...

Niarra had said it was like healing an eye, instead of healing skin. It required time and patience, to heal from the outside inwards, instead of the resiliency of healing from the inner layers out. He had joked he needed to learn to heal like skin instead. In many ways, on many layers, that was still true.

Jheva, too, was healing, and seemed to always be in the medcenter now that he had told her it was alright to take her studies there with her. Teaching was a welcome sense of normalcy. He had managed to squeeze in a few teaching sessions, on his good days. Doing that felt like coming home, resting, as if things would go back to normal. What had happened to them both was terrible, but it had also opened Jheva's ability to sense and use the Force, and with it came a lot of questions: new abilities she needed to understand, new dangers she was trying to comprehend... Still, even the most familiar teaching seemed to sap his energy, as did all simple tasks while he healed. He could let the illusion of normalcy last until he grew exhausted, had to return to the medcenter, and in the silence and stillness everything came crashing back into his head.

Jheva had asked him about his lightsaber, if he would build a new one, or carry a zhaboka. He told her he planned to go with neither, to meditate on peacefulness. She had not seemed satisfied with that answer. Still, he knew it was the right one, for now.

Exephos's rage went beyond him. Bren knew that. Yet, he became the target for that rage because he could not step away from a fight when his instinct told him he should. Before Exephos tortured him, he believed it was a conflict, between being a Jedi and being Iridonian, that made him prideful and stubborn. Now, he knew it was something else. He had become too attached to his struggles: to Iirim, to questions of philosophy, to worries over places where he was not the "perfect Jedi". He needed to accept himself and the galaxy, as they were, before he could understand how to heal, how to make peace with himself and the things he suffered. That, more than his culture, drove the unrest that he felt before the trauma, and after. If he was going to heal like skin, he needed to mend the deepest layers first.

In his hearts, despite his earlier doubts, he felt that there was peace in knowledge, in acceptance, of everything he was and everything he struggled with. His traumas, the timelessness in the kolto tank, and his meditations while he healed brought that to the surface. Awareness of the self like that required time, patience, and mindfulness. Niarra repeated the word over and over again in their conversations. She had meant it in reference to his arguments with Hark, but he sensed that when she spoke, there was a deeper impulse behind it--she was a healer, and her words to him were meant to heal. One did not become mindful by denying things about oneself. If anything, based on their most recent conversation, denying rather than accepting every part of himself would only send him into even more of a downward spiral...

Accept. Understand. Continue on. That was the basis of meditation. It could be the basis of healing, as well, as it could so many aspects of the life of a Jedi. He needed to become okay with that.

***

"Sir, we have a problem," came the voice from Varooth's commlink.

The Councilman was in the middle of speaking with Orans, the Jedi Master who oversaw Tira'Noth's newest, most frustrating problem. The two had been holding talks for the past week or more since the attack on the Tira'Noth Enclave... an attack, and the following holo-footage, which saw the clan's council reevaluating their continued support of the Jedi.

Varooth tossed a glare at the Jedi across the table, who simply regarded him serenely, before picking up the comm and replying. "What kind of problem? Can it wait?"

"Not really," the voice answered. "You still with the Jedi?"

Varooth looked at Orans. The old man now had his eyes closed, and was seemingly both listening to the conversation, while not paying any attention at all. The councilman sighed. "Yes. I'm still with the Jedi. So make it quick."

"We've got a man on one of the landing pads. Tripped our watchlist. We've got blasters trained on him now, so he's not going anywhere, but... Sir, he's got a lightsaber; you should bring the Jedi."

Varooth glanced at Orans, a frown on his face.

The elder Jedi made a soft hum, as if confirming something for himself, then asked, "The man, is he Miraluka?"

The voice on the line crackled, "What was that? Didn't quite catch--"

Varooth picked up the comm again, replying with a hint of bitterness, "The venerable Jedi Master wants to know if our guest is Miraluka."

Orans opened his eyes, said quietly, "Iirim Tal." He stood to walk out the door before the militiaman on the line could even respond.

"Vi," came the reply on the commlink. "Dark hair, Miraluka. Watchlist picked him up as... Tal, Iirim. Suspected for-- oh kabno. Definitely bring the Jedi."

"On our way," Varooth said, before shutting the link off and placing it on his belt, hurrying after the Jedi. For an old man whose cybernetics were wearing out, Master Orans was still somehow difficult to keep up with. The councilman jogged until he was walking abreast of the Jedi Master and asked, "Why is my sentry swearing about a criminal you recognize?"

Orans entered the lift, pressing a button to close the doors behind them and bring them up to the high landing platforms in the cliffside city. "Iirim Tal. A failed padawan. We've been trying to bring him back to the Enclave for some time now..." He gave Varooth a warm half-smile. "We suspected during the Cold War that he'd defected, joined the Sith. Doubt has since been cast on that assessment."

Varooth frowned, deeply. He crossed his arms and stared at the lift doors. "I don't want a Sith in my city, Jedi."

"Of course not. If he is a danger, by all means, put him in a holding cell." Orans paused. "But if I am right, he's not here to cause trouble. He's here to visit our wounded Jedi."

"To kill him?" Varooth asked, giving the man a quizzical look.

Orans laughed. "Just to visit. They were close." He returned Varooth's look with a hawk-eyed one of his own. "Knight Akket was the one who found him again, and has led the effort to bring him back. Perhaps the Force has brought some good from our troubles."

Varooth did not look amused, or satisfied, with that answer. He stared at the doors again, unfolding his arms to keep one hand close to the sidearm under his statesman's coat. "Let's hope you're right."

***

Iirim's smuggler contacts were good on their word. He had found his way to Iridonia, in a ship not marked in Urziya's utter lack of subtlety and Mandalorian pride, without being blasted out of the stars. He was already beginning to regret his decision, however. While he could not see the array of blasters and pole-arms that were now pointed directly at him, he could hear them, and sense the rather impressive number of militia who had gathered to greet him. Ditching the Mandalorians had only succeeded in getting him on the planet's surface, but he was, apparently, still remembered at Tira'Noth.

He flashed a smile at the gathered crowd, greeting them in perfect Zabraki. "Anavolka oen'sharen. Don't suppose you know the way to the medcenter?"

Something familiar was coming. He heard the distant sound of doors opening and closing, several times, and hurried footsteps. Two new presences arrived on the landing platform, one he did not recognize, and the other... painfully familiar. Master Orans' presence echoed through the Force as vividly as it always had, and he had to suck in a quick, steadying, breath so as to not to lose his calm as he stood on the platform. The Jedi Master seemed to shine brightly as he stood next to the stranger, apparently staring straight at him.

Iirim let the breath out, steadily, and placed his hands behind his head. The cockiness he had greeted the militia with vanished as he gave Orans, and only Orans, a quiet nod.

"Edar Orans," he said, quietly. "I'm here for Bren." He paused a moment. "I'm here to trade. I'll turn myself in, to the Jedi, for... whatever you want. If you let me visit him."

There was a moment of silence. The stranger seemed to wait for Orans to reply. After a few minutes of this, the old man's voice returned. It was rougher than Iirim remembered it, weaker. The past decade had not been so kind to his old teacher, it seemed. "He's resting, vyshtal."

Vyshtal. Warrior. Padawan. The word rang both familiarly and strangely in the Miraluka's ears. He felt a tug at his belt, then a weight lifted as Orans summoned Iirim's lightsaber to him. When it clicked into his hand, he spoke again, but not it seemed to him:

"Councilman, I would be very pleased if you would call off your men and release Iirim Tal into my custody."

The stranger spoke, a voice Iirim did not recognize: "I would rather question him. If--"

"The Jedi are fully capable of questioning their own," Orans continued. "At the moment, this is a Jedi matter, and you will handle it as such. We can return him to you if we find anything suspicious."

Icy silence from the stranger. Councilman, Orans had called him? Interesting. Iirim could feel the frustration coming off him even from this distance. He remembered the clan government getting along much better with the Jedi than this stranger did with Orans. Still, there was a blur of motion from the Councilman, and the ominous pressure of the Force telling him how many weapons were pointed at him lifted as he heard the shuffle of boots rearranging. He had a quick flash of an image of several Zabraki faces glowering at him from under helmets. The 'not-Jedi' had to suppress a nervous smile as he took stock of his bizarre situation. There was a presence at his elbow, then the sensation of a firm hand pulling his arms down from his head, snapping binders around his wrists.

"Is this really necessary?" Iirim asked, a small hiss escaping as he tested the binders.

The Councilman spoke up. "Until the Master here can state without doubt that you're not a danger? Yes."

He sighed, walking down the platform to Master Orans. It was hard not to shrink from the Jedi. His presence in the Force was so bright, and he knew first-hand that the man was intimidating when he fought. Not that he wanted to fight him at this moment. Being here was already bringing back bad memories.

There was a gentle touch on his forearm, then his shoulder, as Orans signalled for him to follow alongside. The two remained quiet until they were inside, in the lift to go down to the mountain feet where the Enclave lay. Iirim felt the familiar drop as the lift started to move, then a surprising shift as the weight around his hands lifted, the cold metal vanished from his skin. He flexed his hands experimentally as Orans removed the binders, clippnig them to his belt beside Iirim's saber, and let out a quiet sigh.

"I wouldn't think you'd trust me enough to let me walk free," Iirim said, quietly.

"Trust must be earned," Orans replied. "But to earn, it must be given a chance. Besides, I know why you're here. And I assure you he really is resting. I have many questions for you. I'd rather you be able to sit comfortably."

Iirim remained quiet, rubbing his wrist thoughtfully. "Is he alright?" he asked, quickly. "Is- is he okay? The holo-vid... he... sounded..."

"He is healing, vyshtal," came the reply, a warm and reassuring tone. The lift reached bottom with a whirring thunk, and the doors opened. He guided the man out, motioning for him to continue to follow him to the Enclave grounds. "Volks lenta."

'Welcome home.' Iirim shook his head, tried not to stare at the horrible expanse of grey that was the sky, and trailed behind Orans. This was going to be a hellish night.
« Last Edit: 01/14/17, 01:07:02 AM by Noth »
The Jedi: Bren (Archaeologist), Iirim (Healer), Zorru (Recruiter), Orans (Master), Aybekk (Padawan)
The Politicians: Varooth (Senator), Seirion (Aide/Spy), Ayrak (King)
The Mandos: Urziya (Rallymaster), Terr (Chieftain)
The Outlaws: Telen (Slicer), Majia (Pirate/Smuggler)
The Imperials: Athuuna (Agent), Zhekrazh (Lord), Z'ridia (Apprentice)

Offline Noth

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Re: Tales from Clan Noth
« Reply #9 on: 03/29/17, 06:24:43 AM »
(( @Niarra, @Zmaj, and @Avuras spot your characters. Shout out to a friend not on this server for the headcanon about Miraluka using piercings to hold up the masks that don't have obvious fastenings. It's long and sappy. Like most of my stories. Also like most of my stories, originally supposed to be three separate posts but got mushed into one because of time. I really needed to move this plot along a little. I make no promise of quality. ))

Things were become more settled at Tira'Noth. The clan had moved, into a city, surrounded by others of their clan and other clans, secure in numbers and the safety of tall, metal walls. It was a temporary solution, but one that made a small peace between the politicians and the Jedi after what happened with Exephos... after what happened to Jeth. With it, Jedi presence would be diminished, the Enclave given smaller quarters to fit their smaller numbers. It worked out well, especially for Jheva, who'd been asking for her own quarters. And the smaller number of empty Knight's Quarters... well... that somehow made the loss easier for Bren to live with.

Talravin was a boon during the move, and a much-needed break for both the Jedi and their allies. While Clan Noth settled into their new homes, Tira'Noth Enclave--what little there was of them--found peace, shelter, and new friends in Master Reymark's distant sanctuary. It was one good thing to come of the pain and sorrow Exephos brought with him. What had been a very tenuous alliance had grown into full-fledged friendship and hospitality, youngling clans growing and learning from each other, teachers from both places lending their skills. This wasn't how Bren had imagined it, exactly--he had imagined that Niarra would actually be present to see the friendship between the enclaves grow--but he could hardly complain about the spot of sunshine in an otherwise bleak situation.

It wasn't the only good thing to come of it, either. Iirim was now a regular sight around both Talravin and Tira'Noth. For how long, Bren wasn't sure, but he did know that, for better or worse, he was back with the Jedi-- a tightly guarded secret, for now, shared only by a few. Zakuul was gone, the Sith and the Republic were back to plotting and whispers, Bren was doing archaeological research and expeditions again, and Iirim was back, albeit, quietly, but he was back. Things were almost back to normal...

Almost.

That new Jedi who came around Tira'Noth time to time--Avuras--was quickly becoming a friend and a colleague, a welcome return to studying ancient sites and old artifacts, but Bren was too aware that their excursions into abandoned ruins were the only missions he was able to focus on. Sure, the Zabrak had held it together fighting a couple archaic guardian droids, wandering through an ancient computer wreathed in the Dark Side... but that was normal. It was the sort of work he did during the Great Galactic War, even during the Cold War with his master. Bren could handle the Dark Side. He could handle machines and wild animals. People, though...

Traveling to Coruscant, believing he was ready to track down Exephos, to face Exephos, that had been a mistake. He'd lost it, in front of his friends, in front of Iirim, Jheva, even a few Sith. Jheva'd been injured, which was bad enough on it's own--but he knew if it had been Exephos and not the decoy droid they actually encountered down there, his breakdown could have cost lives. In trying to prove that he wasn't broken, he had made everything worse... including his own health. As soon as he had a room at Tira'Noth's new home, he took to spending most of his time there, studying, meditating, and--he supposed some might say--hiding. It was not cowardice, not really, it was simply... easier. Less tiring. It was a breath of relief to close a door behind him and let go of the pretense that he was doing alright.

Unfortunately, the people closest to him were both uncannily perceptive people. Jheva had started going out of her way to find him medicine, take care of his health, take things on her shoulders without asking--sometimes to the point of crossing lines, and he would need to talk to her about that. And then, of course, there was Iirim, who knew all of his secrets, and had a frustrating habit of just walking in whenever he felt like it. And, somehow, the Miraluka always knew when Bren was trying to hide.

Bren was doing just that, curled up in a chair, resting his head on his arms, when he heard the door to his quarters whirr as it opened. Iirim's presence was familiar, even after years of change, so he didn't look up, just shifted and peered over one arm as the man navigated around the boxes of artifacts surrounding the table at the center of the room.

"You awake?" Iirim asked, then grinned as he almost tripped over a particularly cumbersome artifact--a chest that Bren hadn't gotten around to figuring out how to open yet. "You know... I'm having trouble believing this is your room."

"Why's that?" Bren mumbled, finally looking up, though he kept the fingers of one hand interlaced in his hair. It was starting to grow out again. He wasn't sure if he wanted to cut it or let it grow... Chopping off his queue had seemed like a rational decision at the time, logical, to prevent anyone grabbing it in a fight, but of course he knew now that he had done it purely so that Exephos would never grab it again. In retrospect, it seemed sort of foolish.

"... You're not exactly the sort of person who lives in clutter," Iirim clarified, finally giving up and grabbing the edge of the table to vault over to Bren's side of it. He touched down and smoothed out his robe, tucking the tabard that had gotten loose in the movement back in place. "I seem to remember you thinking that owning a caf maker was a flaw on your part just short of hedonism."

It was strange, seeing Iirim in Jedi robes. Not unwelcome. But somehow, it just reminded Bren of how much the man had gone through between the last time he had worn them and now. Smiling, Bren pointed towards the opposite wall, where a stove and a kettle sat up against the wall.

"Well, maybe you haven't noticed, but I've upgraded from a caf maker."

"Mm, I noticed." Iirim paused, then frowned in Bren's direction, before tilting his head slightly towards the door. "Did the door close behind me?"

Bren furrowed his brow, looking at him curiously. "Yeah."

"Good," Iirim said, nodding, then moved towards Bren's desk and pulled out the chair, turning it towards the Zabrak. He removed his mask--a new one, made of bone--and set it on top of the small desk, pausing briefly to let his hands hover over the desk's other contents. He picked up a small bottle, running a finger over its label, and gave Bren a questioning look, much clearer without the mask obstructing his features. "Medicine?"

"Supplements," Bren corrected, shrugging. "For my horns. To encourage them to grow back quicker." If they grow back at all, he thought, but at least this time, did not say out loud.

"Hmm..." Iirim frowned at the bottle, then set it down and began to shuffle things around, searching in cabinets and underneath sheets of flimsiplast.

Bren watched with growing confusion. "What?"

"That's all you're taking? Just the supplements?"

"... What else would I take?" Bren paused. "I'm meditating regularly, if that means anything."

From the frown on the Miraluka's face, Bren guessed it didn't. Iirim dragged the chair over to Bren's, setting it across from his, and sat down, focusing that frown directly at him. Without the mask, Bren could see small silver piercings, at the corners of the concave empty orbits, over his brow, the bridge of his nose--those were all new, he guessed to hold up the new mask. Or, knowing Iirim, entirely just because he wanted them.

"I think Master Orans is starting to rub off on you," Bren muttered. "I feel like I'm about to get a lecture..."

Iirim grinned broadly, a bright, lopsided smile. "Maybe that's because you are about to get a lecture." He ignored Bren's exasperated sigh, continuing, "Who is your healer?"

"Vashya'ati. When she's here." Bren shifted in his seat, unfolding from his curled-up position. He rested his wrists on his knees, looking anywhere but at Iirim's stupid, infectious, grinning face, feeling his own heat up. "Niarra - uh, Master Reymark - was, until she, er, landed herself in prison..."

"Brave of her." He paused for a long time. "I suppose Tira'Noth doesn't have any healers left, does it?"

Bren shook his head, still looking down. When he looked up again, though, Iirim's smile was gone, replaced by an intent expression--brows drawn, mouth set in a thoughtful line.

He extended a hand towards Bren, palm up, as if offering something. "Let me try?"

Bren hesitated, blinking at him a moment, then gave a small nod. The Miraluka smiled, gently, without his usual bravado, and took one of Bren's hands in the extended one, placing the tips of his fingers on his forehead. When he brushed the scarred roots of his horns, Bren winced, almost drawing back instinctively.

Iirim flinched as well. "S-sorry, I didn't mean to hurt--"

"You're not," Bren clarified, quickly, then sighed. "You're not. I'm just..."

He slipped a hand over his face, peering through his fingers. It was simple to brush it aside, try to be stronger than he was. He had been doing it this long. But this was Iirim. When he was healing, this was the one person that, by instinct, he just wanted to see, and he was here... The man he'd loved and, at least at one point in time, his best friend. And the only thing now on his face was concern, worry, care. He wasn't going to think less of him.

Bren frowned, took a breath, and continued shakily, "Broken. I'm broken, Iirim. Everything is... too much. You were there. You saw what happened, on- on Coruscant. I lost it." He hissed out the words, baring his teeth angrily as he said them. "I endangered you, endangered Jheva, endangered the mission--"

"--we all got out alright, Bren. And I managed to get quite a few records from it."

"Szi shuree meni jendovsta!1" He snapped, then froze, as if his volume surprised him. "I-I completely... lost it. I... Stars." He folded up in the chair again, too spooked now to be embarrassed. Since when did he shout? "Sorry. That wasn't very, uh..."

"Jedi-like?" Iirim asked, a brow raising. He smiled and scooted forward. "Tze, du sharee keyn id d'yot.2" Iirim's voice sounded... better, in Zabraki. More comfortable, more natural than Bren's. That alone felt almost more soothing than the rest of the speech. "But I'm not really one to talk."

Bren gave a small chuckle, but it was half-hearted, and guarding the emotions hitting him all at once--emotions he had to fight back every time he tried to talk about this. He had to remind himself that Iirim was the last person in the galaxy to judge him for lack of composure, of all things. The Miraluka leaned forward, pressing his palm against Bren's forehead, a comforting warmth spreading from the area of his touch. Was it just comfort, or Force healing? Bren couldn't tell, and didn't care.

Iirim continued: "I can tell you one thing, though. You're definitely not crazy, or dangerous. I actually do know about trauma, and this... what happened on Coruscant... it's entirely normal for what you've been through. You know that, don't you?"

Bren didn't respond right away. He blinked back tears and frowned at a spot somewhere around Iirim's shoulder.

"Bren?"

"Jheva got hurt..."

"Aren't you training her to be a Jedi Knight one day?"

"Yeah..."

"So...? What's this really about?"

Bren sighed, trying to let go of the hurt that had built up to the outburst. He lifted a hand, gesturing around his mangled horns. "I... don't-- It's not the scars. Or-or the brand he gave me. Or the memories, though, Force, the memories are horrible. If I could get rid of them... But I can't forget. I can't just-- go back to normal, let it fade like-- like those stones in the garden. The ones we carve, with names? The dead? That wear away in the wind? I can't do that with this. Every time I see or- or brush the wounds I--"

But it wasn't just that. Bren knew it wasn't just that they reminded him of the cave, of the pain. The pain, that memory was fading, but the emotions seemed to always be there under the surface still, waiting for an opening. So it was something else. So he'd keep talking, until he figured it out:

"I look different. It feels different. The- the skin, by my horns, should be sensitive, more'n the rest of my face, but now it feels dead, like nothing. Except when it hurts, like- like lightning or your hair brushed the wrong way. And- and then... He took my jato. He took my horns. He took away-- me. My strength. My belonging. My adulthood. I-I don't know, I don't know why I care so much. I never used to care about how I looked."

He was actually crying now, not holding it back. He took a shaky breath, pressing his sleeve into his eyes to catch the water, clean up his face. Instead he just ended up sobbing into the sleeve of his robe. Iirim's grip on his hand tightened, and the warmth around his hands lessened, becoming gentler, cooler. Bren focused on that, on the healing, and curled his fingers tightly around Iirim's.

"... It's not really about how you look, though, is it?" Iirim said, softly, a frown on his face. "You weren't given a choice. He destroyed part of you, violently. Took that from you. It'd make me angry." He paused, lifted the hand from his forehead, briefly, before returning to the healing. "Are you angry at him?"

"Ameenan na aman3, Iirim," Bren swore softly. "Of course it makes me angry. It makes me furious. And helpless. And angry all over again, and I- I don't know how you did this."

"How I did what?"

"How did you let go..." The Zabrak frowned, giving Iirim a pained look. "Of your anger. Towards Keyva. Towards the Jedi. I- I really didn't think you would come back. I hoped, but- You seemed so angry, bitter... How did you let go of it?"

"Uh..." Iirim laughed, nervously. "I'll let you know when I get there. I didn't come back because I stopped being angry. I was just- wrong. Not all the Jedi are like my master was." He paused, a flicker of something coming over his face, quickly, then disappearing. "And I suppose I missed home."

Guilt. It was guilt. Bren remembered what Iirim's friend had said, when they spoke at Talravin--that Bren carried his guilt around him like a cloud. Like Iirim struggled with his anger, Bren had his own habitual problems. She'd intimated he needed to forgive himself, so--

He let out a long sigh, letting go of the tenseness, allowing himself to cry. There were few tears left, anyway. That didn't stop him from sobbing until his eyes and lips hurt. But it felt good, for a moment at least, until there was nothing left. He squeezed Iirim's hand half-heartedly and whispered, "Thank you." He swallowed to clear his throat and give himself time to collect his thoughts. "Don't tell Orans how much of a mess I am. Or, uh, do. I guess you're his padawan now. You two shouldn't have secrets."

Iirim smirked. "Neither should you and yours."

"She's not my--" Bren began to protest, then frowned, and looked down. "Right. You're right."

The Miraluka took a deep, quiet, breath, and got up, stepping closer to Bren. He cupped his hands around the sides of his head, pressed his forehead against the Zabrak's scarred one. When he spoke, it was quiet, but with a strength behind it. "I don't want you to hurt. I don't want you to be hurt. I will always respect your wishes, pelira4, but I'm also here if you need to talk to someone."

Bren looked up, smiling softly, and touched a hand to one of Iirim's wrists. "Ush meni tze'keff..."

"... id d'bir, eit natelkosta nivaren de.5" Iirim finished the line, smiling back. He paused, planted a small kiss on the top of Bren's head, and stepped back. "You do know that your favorite poem is about how things heal and change over time, yes?"

"Or the uncaring march of fate," Bren countered, his smile turning wry. "Depending on what scholars you read. But yes. That's part of why I like it."

"Well, you should take it to heart." The Miraluka moved back over to the desk, picked up his mask, and fastened it over his empty eyes again. "You should also get someone to prescribe you actual medicine. An anxiolytic or an anti-depressant or something. Or at least find a regular healer. You're a Jedi, not living in a time before spaceflight. You can't just meditate your problems away."

"I'll try," Bren promised, quietly. "You should see if Orans needs you. Or, uh, get back to your double life. I'll... think. Get some rest."

As Iirim vanished through the door again, his smile fell. It was both easier, and harder, having him around. Easier, because he knew without a doubt he could talk to Iirim about anything, that he'd always know exactly what to say and do, and because his presence was comforting... familiar. Tougher, because he was a constant reminder of, well-- the fact that he existed, and how much he was giving up on a daily basis.

No, not the right phrasing. Not giving up. Accepting. Moving on. Learning. In a lot of ways, he suspected Iirim had a better handle on how to be a Jedi than he did--or at least, how to accept things and let them go. His knack for letting his curiosity land him in trouble, however... That remained to be seen.

Regardless, he really did need rest. He'd needed some before Iirim came in, and he definitely needed some after getting so upset. Iirim was right. He was doing fine on small missions, but he still needed outside help that wasn't just trying to steadfastly believe that everything was fine. To do that, he needed to trust, and when it came down to it, he was extremely slow to hold that towards anyone. A problem he would have to work on.

He made a quick note to speak to Jheva when he saw her next, gathered together materials to look at when he woke, and set an alarm for a few hours ahead. He tumbled the poem, lesson plans for Jheva, the questions he and Avuras had been trying to solve with their studies, and the various artifacts in his room over and over in his head until he fell asleep.

1 But I'm crazy (connotation:dangerous)
2 No, when you talk like that.
3 Gods and spirits
4 love
5 The Force is unchanging as the sky, yet within stars move. - If you've read earlier posts here you've seen this line before.
The Jedi: Bren (Archaeologist), Iirim (Healer), Zorru (Recruiter), Orans (Master), Aybekk (Padawan)
The Politicians: Varooth (Senator), Seirion (Aide/Spy), Ayrak (King)
The Mandos: Urziya (Rallymaster), Terr (Chieftain)
The Outlaws: Telen (Slicer), Majia (Pirate/Smuggler)
The Imperials: Athuuna (Agent), Zhekrazh (Lord), Z'ridia (Apprentice)

Offline Noth

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Re: Tales from Clan Noth
« Reply #10 on: 04/19/17, 07:23:31 AM »
(( This ended up way, way longer than I wanted it to be. Character development! As always, tagging people mentioned: @Niarra, @LVT, @Orell and @Karmic though it's a very short and brief mention. PLOT THICKENS. ))

Peace was returning to Bren's life, little by little.

Jheva was his padawan now, officially. That, in and of itself, restored something of himself. As Jheva learned, healed, and grew, so he learned, healed, and grew alongside her, even in the smallest of conversations. At the same time, the tradition and the familiarity of that relationship--a tie that was as ancient to the Jedi as it was new to him--reminded him of the pieces of himself that Exephos's torture had tried to take away.

Tried and failed, he reminded himself. He found the reminder becoming more automatic, less forced, every time he repeated it. Admitting that he felt something had been taken at all, that was harder--something Jheva helped with, maybe more than even she realized, her blunt honesty reminding him to be honest with himself. But now, at least, he was getting some of that back. His connection to his spirit, to the Jedi, to Iridonia...

The decision to take a pilgrimage of sorts was in his mind before Exephos grabbed him. The Zabrak had suspected that it would help him heal, but he had no idea how much. First, to Ilum, to see calm after memories of a dangerous and sorrowful planet, to return to a place where the Force sang clear, to affirm that the path ahead was one worth following. Then, to the wilds of Iridonia, to a holy place, to return to his heritage, to learn from old legends and reaffirm that he was still jhere. He had expected to simply meditate for a while and return home, but what he, Jheva, and Avuras found was far more ancient and far more inexplicable than a few stones and pilgrim's markers. Avuras had his own ideas, Jheva was disquieted by it, but as far as Bren was concerned, he had come face to face with the mythology of his people, and the living myth did not consider him less than what he was. Somehow, that was enough to ease much of the conflict that possessed him these past months.

Strange, how something so simple could lift the burden so easily. Bren's healing had improved in leaps and bounds since then. He was nowhere near ready for a high-stress mission, but alone, he could meditate in peace, could find peace within his own thoughts, and that was a welcome shift. He could sit and enjoy the hum of Tira'Noth's new home or the quiet of nature at Talravin without too many shadows clinging to him.

For Iirim, the newfound peace he felt from Bren made the news he had to break that much more stressful. He hated to disturb it. The Miraluka was sure Bren knew--Force be damned, he thought the entirety of Talravin probably knew--that he had been carrying some weight around, but the Zabrak's tendency to be patient with such things had allowed Iirim to carry his worries far longer than was really practical... or safe, now that Bren seemed well enough to return to many of his old duties. If Iirim's thought was correct--

He found Bren meditating over an unfamiliar holocron in one of Talravin's study rooms, a quiet cove with a small waterfall murmuring in the corner. The sound of the holocron's guardian was broken, archaic, as if translating across a barrier it was struggling to overcome. He walked over quietly, sitting across from Bren, listening to the ancient master and the scratch of Bren scribbling something on flimsiplast.

"Working?" Iirim asked, starting to smile.

"Huh?" The scribbling stopped as Bren's sillhouette looked up, followed by a soft chuckle. "Oh... Yes." He motioned to the holocron. "A refugee from Ilum," he said, a wry note coming into his voice. "Jheva and I found this one hidden in a crevasse. Looked like someone hid it there, before everything went to, uh..."

"The Corellian Hells?"

"Yes. Something like that." Bren laughed. "You want to help? Could use someone with your knack for languages."

Iirim heaved a sigh, focusing on the glow of the holocron in his 'sight'. It was cold, star-bright, flickering welcomingly. But he needed to ignore it. Other things were more important. He shook his head and frowned. "Later, maybe. We can go over the holocron, you can tell me the whole story, how you found it, context, everything..."

He could feel Bren's questioning, concerned look even if it wasn't distinct enough to really see it.

"Are you--"

"--I'm alright... Just..." He sighed. "I need to talk to you, about something important. It was a secret until now, but-- You need to know."

There was a flicker of both fear and confusion across the stones. Bren closed the holocron with a nod to its guardian and a quick hand motion, then got up and moved closer to Iirim, settling down next to him. It was comforting, his presence so close by, but it was only temporary. He had a feeling his news would break the equilibrium in the room.

Bren started off, speaking quietly, "I know you've been working with Orans, to recover your memory, what happened with Keyva. Is this about that? Did you learn something?"

Iirim shook his head. "No, Bren..."

"Because if it is, you know I wouldn't judge you, right? For whatever you find out?"

"It's not about that."

"Are you--"

"Yes, I'm sure." There was a pause, a pained sigh. "It's about you. Sort of. Friend of yours. But you need to promise me you won't do anything, uh, rash."

He could feel the fear in Bren's presence shift even further into concern and confusion. "... Rash? Like what?"

"You know. Bren-like." Iirim waved vaguely. "You may have most people here fooled into thinking you're a quiet scholar, but I know better. Promise you won't dash off to try to solve a problem single-handedly?"

Bren snorted. "Alright, but now you have me curious, you know that?" He paused, frowned, and moved so that he was looking at the Miraluka's face. Though Iirim's mask still hid some of his features, he still shifted to look down, not wanting to tell too much. It did little to dissuade Bren, though--rather, seemed to do the opposite. The Zabrak put a hand on his shoulder, gave him a small smile. "Hey... I promised. No judgment. No leaping off with lightsaber in hand. Now, will you tell me what's wrong? Before it eats you alive?"

Iirim nodded, shifting. "... How well do you know your friend, Harkasone?"

There was a moment of silence, but he felt Bren's grip on his shoulder tighten. "Hark? Uh... Why?" Another pause, and he sat back with a soft sigh. "Uhm... Well. Not sure friend is the right term. I think he's a friend, but he seems to disagree. If I weren't his friend, though, I wouldn't worry so much about his... life decisions."

Iirim could practically hear the eye-roll in Bren's words. He chuckled and straightened, rolling his shoulders back. "By his life decisions, I'm assuming you mean Asori."

"Ahh, you've met her, have you?" Bren returned the laughter, lightly, and nodded. "Yes. That and... other things. His habit of trying to teach his ways as Jedi ways, when he disagrees with them on exactly those matters, for one. There's also something... strange, lately, about his-- Master Reymark and I had..." He paused, struggling with his words a little, then sighed. "Well, first, why were you asking?"

Iirim listened to the words, paused at each pause, considering their meaning. Maybe he was right, then, to suspect that Bren already had a suspicion. Or maybe not. Still, delaying it would not help the situation. He sighed and began to rub his coat sleeve, self-consciously. "You know who the Viper is, yes?"

"Your 'rival', the one on Nar Shaddaa." Bren nodded a few times, his posture attentive. "You've told me a few things. You think Hark's mixed up with him?"

Iirim paused. He shifted uncomfortably, a frown twitching across his face. That, and the thought so clearly on his mind, was enough, it seemed. Bren's movement seemed to still, then there was the sound of cloth moving through air quickly, his sillhouette shifting so that the Miraluka could see him holding a hand to his face as he stared.

"... Iirim?"

"He is the Viper. He told me. Recently. I-I think he wanted me to join his crusade, I-I-I don't know... I do know they are one and the same. A-and every belief the Viper holds about the Jedi, about justice, about- about what he is doing, and every belief that Hark holds about the same, they are one thing." Iirim let the words out quickly, almost in a sigh, getting them out with a rush of air and relief. He held a hand to his forehead and drew in a breath as he thought. "Even though they feel like two completely different people. They're the same person. And all of this time I didn't put it together, and... and... and it's-- and he's--"

Iirim broke off, frowning deeply. Bren and Yatei, both, he had trouble keeping barriers up around. He was scared--because it reminded him of his own fears, or because of the threat it posed if he was right, he wasn't sure--and it was breaking through, in his voice, in his posture. Quietly, he said, "I think he is Falling. I'm not sure he knows, or if he does, I'm not sure he cares. He may already be Fallen, but... I..." The panic was fading as the words left his mind and became reality. He hunched and finished softly, "He reminds me of Keyva. Her coldness. Her fear. Her ability to justify what was not Jedi with her own version of things. Orans wanted me to get a sense of him, to make this decision on my own. Some kind of Trial or just because he thought it would be good for me. But... Now that I have, I don't know what to do."

He heard Bren shift. Iirim's vision clouded when his emotions were stronger, the clarity of the Force dimming into shadows and vague shapes. But he could hear, still, and Bren's presence remained... comfortingly solid, warm, strong, despite what Iirim had feared he might do. After a moment, Bren's voice broke the quiet with: "Master Reymark agrees. We talked about it, a while ago... While I was healing. She felt something was off, and asked me to keep an eye on him."

"And?" Iirim asked, relaxing.

"I don't know. He doesn't seem to want to talk to me much anymore. But he was cold when he came to check on me. It doesn't mean he's Fallen, just... that something's wrong." He paused a moment, then looked down. As Iirim's vision clarified, he could tell that he was frowning. Thoughtfully, Bren continued, "But it makes some things make sense. Rhem Var, for one."

"The ice planet?" Iirim remembered the old master, the small group of younglings, now living at Talravin. The ones he was teaching music to. Several of them took to it with the meditative need of those who need something peaceful and beautiful to wash away pain and grief they were too young to already carry. He would be lying if he said he did not recognize himself in that. Lowering his voice, he said, "I didn't know Hark came on that mission."

Bren made a sound somewhere between a grunt and a thoughtful hum. "Hark was on it. He refused to kill a Sith, but gave him a thousand cuts instead. Said he would 'learn' from it. As if a Sith would do anything but find power and vengeance from such wounds..."

"... which is what the Viper does to his enemies."

"Not that long after that, the Viper made his appearance on the holonet news. Kabno!" Bren rubbed his face. "Now I feel I should have seen it sooner. Of course it's him. It's his adopted home planet. It's the same Makashi technique he used on Rhem Var. And it's maverick enough. But it- it doesn't make complete sense. He used to argue with Master Telline that she wasn't being pacifistic enough. That she wasn't being open and honest enough."

"Maybe he wanted to show what happens when that is abused, and lost sight somewhere along the line." Iirim paused. "Maybe he decided that he was wrong. People change."

"Or maybe it's the Dark Side," Bren said, gloomily.

"... Or maybe it's that." Iirim sighed. "I know you consider him a friend. I don't know how to feel, but-- I think it would be best for me to step back. It's... too..." He shook his head. "Like I said, he carries echoes of my old master. I'm way too close to it to make a reasoned decision. Maybe you are too, but-- You're a Knight. You've done this sort of thing before. You'd know better than me what to do... And I trust you, more than anyone, and..." He trailed off, tugging at his gloves, running his fingers over the straps on the sides.

"And you're scared," Bren finished, quietly.

"And I'm scared," Iirim repeated. "He keeps saying we're so similar, but we're not. I... have already faced my Dark Side, and I continue to face it, will again. It's not like his. I don't justify violence. I know it for what it is. And I'm honest about my anger and my hatreds. I work on them. He takes them out on criminals and... tells himself it's alright, but- Even though I know he's wrong, there's a part of me that feels like I've met what would I would have become if I had killed Keyva."

Bren leaned forward again, placing his hands on Iirim's shoulders. "You are not like him. You are your own person. You know yourself - hold onto that." He paused, frowned again. "You said he reminds you of her... You considered maybe just being around him is reliving that trauma?"

"Probably," Iirim said, returning the frown.

"Then I think you're right. You're too close to it. I'll take care of it, if that's what you want." Bren's frown broke into a grin, suddenly. "Or I'll do something rash. One or the other. Maybe both."

"Please do not." Iirim groaned. "I worry about you enough as it is. And you need to keep healing."

"So do you," Bren affirmed, squeezing Iirim's shoulders reassuringly. "But I'll talk to Orans. Talk to a few others. The good thing about being back with the Jedi is you don't have to handle this all on your own."

Iirim couldn't help but grin stupidly at that. "Is that the only good thing about being back with the Jedi?"

Bren shrugged. "Friendship. Family. Doing good in the galaxy." He finally caught Iirim's grin and frowned, before breaking into a smile and shaking his head. "Uh-huh. No. I know what you're thinking. Not the only good thing, but good things have their limits. I get to worry about you too." He went to stand, then changed his mind, and leaned forward to wrap Iirim in a hug instead.

The Miraluka folded into it, wrapping his arms around him and sighing into a fold of his robes. "I appreciate the worry... And... I'm sorry for hiding it as long as I did. It strikes me now that was not the safest option."

Bren hummed. "Who else knows?"

"Orans. Yatei. Niarra, I suppose, as you said." He paused, hesitated. "Uh. Jheva."

Bren broke the hug and held him at arm's length, frowning. "Sorry, you told my padawan, but you didn't tell me?" He paused, thought. "She didn't tell me?"

"If it makes you feel better, she was the one who convinced me you needed to know. And neither she nor Yatei know the names involved."

"Iirim!"

"I never professed to be incredibly smart about this."

Bren shook his head, and tapped Iirim's forehead lightly. Desite the sternness of his tone, there was a smile trying to escape his expression. "Oh no, intelligence isn't your problem, Iirim. You can be a little too smart sometimes. A lack of common sense, maybe. I guess we share that." He shook his head and got up.

"One more thing," Iirim added, catching his arm before he left. He got to his feet, frowning. "He knows I'm back with the Jedi. Because... you told him, as Hark."

Bren looked back, nodding. "More reason to keep your distance, in case something goes wrong, or that comes into the light."

"And if it does?"

"Then you come back, 'officially'. No more sneaking in shadows or double life. You just get to be Iirim."

Iirim could tell that Bren was giving him a hopeful smile, could hear the cheer in his tone. He wished he shared it. 'Just Iirim' was something different from Iirim Tal, the prodigal padawan, and the Miraluka was still not sure about letting that go--even though so far, 'letting go' continually turned out to mean 'accepting what is true about oneself'. Maybe it was the same for that, but... He would miss it if not.

"Maybe..." he answered, quietly.

Bren gave him a questioning look. "What else do you think Orans is training you for? You have a home here. You are returning to...." He trailed off.

Iirim gave him a warm smile. "What?"

"I was going to say who you were supposed to be, before everything between you and your master. But that isn't mine to tell you."

"Hmm." Iirim frowned, then got to his feet as well. "I don't know. We might both be right. Orans could be letting me learn at my own pace, figure out my own solutions to problems. He might also have reasons other than patience to allow me to keep up all my personas and underworld activity."

"What, you think he wants you to be a spy?"

"He did ask me to assess whether I felt Hark had fallen."

"To... test your intuition, to learn to face your fears on your own terms..."

"Or to hunt down Sith," Iirim whispered. "Learn to spot them. Even my Sith friend, if the war breaks out again; sometimes I feel we're aready playing a spy game."

Bren went quiet. Iirim expected shock, or surprise, but instead, he found careful contemplation in his friend's presence. "I'm having trouble picturing Orans as a spymaster," Bren admitted. "Won't deny you have a very particular set of skills, though. Same time, you're still a Padawan, age and experience notwithstanding. I think you won't have to worry about that for a while."

Iirim sighed, and smiled. "Right. You're right. Focus on the now."

Bren shifted, worry returning to his stance. "You can always ask where he wants your training to go... and refuse if you don't like it. To, uh, an extent, but I'd imagine that's something you could refuse without it becoming a problem." He raked his fingers back through his hair. "I need to ask him about this thing with Hark-- Viper, whatever. Just take it a step at a time. Worry about learning, training, finding your peace, meditate, pray if you need to. It's working for me so far." He looked back with a smile. "And you can always find me."

"I know." He gave Bren a careful smile. "Oen'mai, Bren."

"Oen'mai, pel."

Bren put his hand over his heart, extended it, almost a bow, but a very familiar parting. He disappeared through the door, and Iirim listened as his footsteps echoed across the stone tiles of the ancient sanctuary, finally disappearing as the stone walls absorbed the remainder of the sound. He was left with the quiet of the study and the trickling rumble of the waterfall within it. The waterfall in particular drew Iirim's attention. As much as he and Yatei agreed that the waterfall meditation was suffering, despite the joking, there was a strange kind of peace to it--a sensory distraction that would literally hammer the conflicting thoughts out of his head, at any rate. He flipped his hood up over his head with a sigh, set his saber down on one of the desks at the edge of the room. Time to find his focus. Time to let someone else handle his problems for a change. Time to let go.
« Last Edit: 04/19/17, 07:40:06 AM by Noth »
The Jedi: Bren (Archaeologist), Iirim (Healer), Zorru (Recruiter), Orans (Master), Aybekk (Padawan)
The Politicians: Varooth (Senator), Seirion (Aide/Spy), Ayrak (King)
The Mandos: Urziya (Rallymaster), Terr (Chieftain)
The Outlaws: Telen (Slicer), Majia (Pirate/Smuggler)
The Imperials: Athuuna (Agent), Zhekrazh (Lord), Z'ridia (Apprentice)

Offline Noth

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Re: Tales from Clan Noth
« Reply #11 on: 04/28/17, 08:25:18 PM »
(( Thanks @Kremon, @LVT, and @SivWysan for the RPs this story entry references! Pleasure doing RP as always. ))

Urziya felt like there was static running through her veins, all the way back to her ship. She had faced down Exephos and lived. Granted, Exephos was still standing, and not even a single bolt had been fired... but the near-brush was still a feat in and of itself, given his history and reputation.

The Coalition was over. Her sights were on her clan and her tsad, on Malhra and Shad'ra and her cousin and everyone under their commands. Exephos planned to take out the Coalition leaders, and Urziya was not likely to cry over the dismantling of the Viper and a few Sith Lords. Still, she remembered how to negotiate. The deal she struck for her neutrality was simple, assuming Exephos would honor it: If her Mando'ade kin and allies got hurt, she would make Exephos pay, with a small army to contend with. If Hark came to her for help with Exephos... he got a head start. The head start, however, was all she could give him. Clan was stronger than loyalties forged of friendship. Clan came first, especially now that she was ver'alor. Giving her friend a fighting chance was honorable, more than abandoning him, gave him a chance to stand on his own, and as far as she knew, Exephos had taken that bargain.

The third condition was that Iirim was not to be harmed, in any way. She knew the request probably seemed odd--chak, she knew Exephos barely knew who Iirim was, that the insistence tipped him off to his importance to her and gave him leverage--but it was for the Miraluka's own good. If Iirim knew that Exephos was back, or what he was planning...

Skin Exephos alive and leave him the blasted Iridonian wasteland, burning slowly in radiation and acid rain, with a kolto kit and blaster in sight and out of reach. That was what Iirim had planned for Exephos if he caught him. That was what Urziya planned if the aged Human went anywhere near Iirim Tal.

That didn't mean Iirim found out about the plan, the deal, or Exephos being back on the galactic stage. Urziya was not particularly happy about her friend's return to the Jedi, though she understood it. Family was family, even if that family was a Jedi Enclave. Despite her personal disappointment over losing a brother, she heard and saw that he was happy--happier than he had ever been haunting Nar Shaddaa with her--and that was worth her silence. Letting go of Exephos and revenge had not been easy for him, and she was not about to disturb his newfound hunt for peace with a fight he had no chance of winning anyway. It was safer this way, for Iirim, for her clan, for her...

Sitting down at the controls, she flipped on the ship's power switches one by one, opening a channel directed towards Hypori, where she knew Malhra was waiting with her 'kits'. "Hey, Malhra... Got good news for you: Might have a source on some disruptors. Bad news: It'll take a while to get anything close to trust with that source. I'm sticking around to find out more."

She hesitated over the panel. Did she warn them? Gabe hadn't been on the list Exephos recited, but that did not mean he was safe. Still... Clan came first. And Gabriel wasn't that. The clans would be moving away soon anyway. Malhra had a plan, or at least, she hinted that she did. Urziya frowned and ended, "Will see you soon, Vok. I'll check in later. Keep everything running smoothly 'til I get back."

It was for their own good, she reminded herself. Iirim, Malhra, her family. They would all be safer this way.

---

Star systems away, Iirim Tal sat at a comms unit and considered the news he had just heard. Bren returned to Tira'Noth with the news that he had spoken with Hark, spoken about Viper... that Hark was giving up the fight and the mask. Or at least, he said he was, and Bren believed it was truth. It made one decision Iirim had been brooding over easier: Now that he knew that the Viper and Harkasone were one and the same, did he tell Urziya?

Step back. That was the logical decision, the Jedi-like decision. His emotions were too tangled up with the Viper, with Hark, even with Urziya and her clan. The anxiety surrounding his life on Nar Shaddaa, and the longing of the road not traveled, only made it harder to give those things up and start again with something new... Still, he knew that he would be lying to himself if he ignored it all. Jedi were not afraid to let go of old lives. Jedi could not let their worry for their friendships or their family get in the way of decision-making. Jedi did not have illusions about their own minds.

Jedi also did not put others in danger without need... but he had told Bren about Hark and the Viper and the danger he felt. And Bren had talked to Hark. Maybe something good would come of this.

The danger's over, he thought to himself, breathing out and stepping back from the panel. The danger was over. He needed to focus on becoming a better Jedi. Urziya was a Mandalorian. She could take care of herself. If she did find out that Hark was the same man who had intruded on their privacy and made himself a nuisance to Iirim, she was likely to do something stupid, like try to fight him or threaten him over it. She was not likely to take a betrayal of friendship--as he thought she might see it--very well. Besides, she was back with her clan, planning bigger things. She didn't need to know. Better for her if she was allowed to focus on strengthening her family.

It was for her own good. And it was for his, too, to refocus his attentions on his studies, on learning, on peace.

The Miraluka switched off the console and, leaving the room alone, went to find Master Orans.
The Jedi: Bren (Archaeologist), Iirim (Healer), Zorru (Recruiter), Orans (Master), Aybekk (Padawan)
The Politicians: Varooth (Senator), Seirion (Aide/Spy), Ayrak (King)
The Mandos: Urziya (Rallymaster), Terr (Chieftain)
The Outlaws: Telen (Slicer), Majia (Pirate/Smuggler)
The Imperials: Athuuna (Agent), Zhekrazh (Lord), Z'ridia (Apprentice)

Offline Noth

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Re: Tales from Clan Noth
« Reply #12 on: 05/10/17, 05:51:06 PM »
(( I was definitely going to write something different for the next installment, but @Exephos your story and reveal news post was too good to not react to. ))

"...'When can we expect victory?' Not today; probably not tomorrow. It may not be this year, or even the next. But I swear to you that victory will come; one day."

Iirim shut off the broadcast before it was done. The sound of Exephos's voice was icily, startlingly familiar, stirring to life the heated anger that Iirim had been trying so kriffing hard to bury. He didn't need to hear the rest. Exephos was back with the Republic, somehow, implausibly, infuriatingly, despite what he had done--despite everything. The surge of bright anger that rose up at the thought was, at least, tempered by an immediate, second wave of concern and... compassion? Maybe the Jedi were working after all. Or maybe it was just...

Bren. The Miraluka rushed out of his quarters and rushed down the inner 'street' of the clan compound.

He darted past a few whispering civilians, a Zabrak and a Nautolan, who were staring up at the holoscreen outside the cantina, trading worry and righteous excitement about the Republic going back to war. He caught a glimpse of Councilor Varooth, fluctuating between a pale, bright light and dark, swarthing shadows in the Force--uncertain whether to be filled with righteous concern for his constituents or the warlike fury of an Iridonian wronged, no doubt--as the man stepped out of his chambers, speaking into his portable comm, and locked eyes on the Jedi running past him. No doubt there would be an impassioned speech to the High Council in the man's future, and a bitter argument behind closed doors with Iirim's master. The Miraluka reached the simple doors to Bren's quarters and opened them without as much as a knock.

"Bren?" he called out, seeking for the warm glow that he recognized as Bren's Force-presence. Sorrow and pain hit Iirim like a wall the moment he did. He found Bren slumped next to his desk, hunched over, holding his head in his hands protectively. Even without the emotions radiating through the Force, he could hear the man's muffled sobbing. In the background, the holo-broadcast still played, quietly.

Iirim switched off the holo, then crouched beside Bren, placing his hands on his back and shoulders. "Bren? Pelira? I'm here... Focus on me."

Another muted sob, but Bren's hand moved over his head, found Iirim's, held it tightly. He looked up, the light around him... dimming, and asked softly, "Did you hear the broadcast?"

"I did," he replied, then sat down next to him, wrapping his arms fully around him. Bren sighed, leaned into the hug, and rested his head on Iirim's shoulder, the scarred, broken points of horn butting against the muscle. Iirim didn't mind. It was a reminder that they were growing back, and that was better.

"I thought that I was healing," Bren murmured. "Then... this." He waved his hand vaguely towards the switched-off holoemitter.

"You are healing, Bren. It just..." He trailed off. What? Takes time? What would heal this wound? Not Exephos being welcomed with open arms, that was certain. He frowned, and let out a frustrated sigh as he curled his fingers around a fold of Bren's robes. "It isn't right. You know it. I know it. The Jedi know it. Edar Varooth knows it. I passed him on his way to give Orans a piece of his mind."

Bren nodded, quietly. After a moment, he replied, "... they will want me to speak. To tell of what happened to me. The Republic will need proof." He shook his head. "I can't. Not yet. I--" He paused, and Iirim caught a flash switch between sorrow and anger. "Iokath. He's spurring the Republic on to Iokath. Iirim... The Republic have asked the Jedi for aid. I... I wanted to go, but I- I can't fight beside him, Iirim, I can't. Jheva-- I can't ask her to do that either. Not after what he put her through..."

Iirim was quiet for a moment, his mind moving through their options, absorbing Bren's words, letting something like peace pass between them. He held onto Bren's thoughts and conjured up shared memories -- long treks in the Iridonian wilderness, jokes and caf over Iirim's antique carved dejarik board in the corner of some space shuttle while their masters went over the details of some mission or another, the warmth of just being close to one another, sneaking out to watch the stars -- and slowly but surely, Bren's fear eased away. The Zabrak laughed, weakly, but honestly, and gave a long, shuddering sigh.

"Daynas, pelira." Bren looked up again, a smile breaking through the tears. "Suppose things weren't always so grim, eh?"

"No," Iirim replied, a grin of his own forming. "And you used to be the brave one. That's in you, still, buried somewhere. If you forget it, I remember."

Bren's hopeful smile threatened to break his heart. Without speaking, Bren reached up and cupped a hand around the side of Iirim's face, giving a look that was all warmth, gratitude, and care, before untangling himself from the embrance and using the desk to help himself stand. "I'll try... I was getting back to it, before this. Jheva keeps telling me not to let him have power over me."

"Your padawan gives good advice!" Iirim stood as well, but kept a steadying hand on Bren's shoulder, though he did have to reach up a little to do it. "Will you be alright, for a moment? I should check, with Orans, see what is happening - if something is happening - before you make any decisions. But when I get back..." He motioned towards the stove on the other side of the room. "You. Me. Caf. Singing. Maybe take that holocron of yours and puzzle out its mysteries as a... diversion."

"A distraction," Bren corrected, frowning.

"A meditation," Iirim retorted. "You can't be distracted if there's nothing to do but wait."

Bren nodded, and his smile returned, a grateful look turned towards Iirim as he leaned heavily on his desk. "Thank you... That sounds nice."

Iirim gave him a warm smile in return, then pressed his forehead, briefly, against Bren's shoulder, before heading back out of the room. He was certain that he could find Varooth in Orans' quarters, and when he did, he could become a part of that conversation. He may have left thoughts of revenge behind him when he rejoined the Jedi, but that did not mean he would sit back and do nothing while Exephos was allowed to return freely to the Republic's open arms. Not while Bren needed him. Not while Exephos could do more harm. And not while Clan Noth remained without justice.
The Jedi: Bren (Archaeologist), Iirim (Healer), Zorru (Recruiter), Orans (Master), Aybekk (Padawan)
The Politicians: Varooth (Senator), Seirion (Aide/Spy), Ayrak (King)
The Mandos: Urziya (Rallymaster), Terr (Chieftain)
The Outlaws: Telen (Slicer), Majia (Pirate/Smuggler)
The Imperials: Athuuna (Agent), Zhekrazh (Lord), Z'ridia (Apprentice)

Offline Noth

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Re: Tales from Clan Noth
« Reply #13 on: 05/26/17, 01:27:11 AM »
(( Didn't proofread this, just wanted to write something quickly after tonight's Jedi Night. Thanks @Niarra for the recruiter's list! ))

It was several hours by hyperspace to Glee Anselm, which gave Zorru plenty of time to think and try to decompress from the meeting which she had just been a part of. This man, Exephos, and the people who surrounded him gave her a headache. Why she had been sent and not some other ally of Tira'Noth was a mystery to her... though she understood that the other choices were not good. Knight Akket was still too shaken by what had happened to him to think clearly around Exephos, so it made sense not to ask him. Master Orans was caught up in the legal bickering on Iridonia, and besides all of that, had to look after the care of Tira'Noth Enclave. And Iirim--

Zorru scowled at blue of hyperspace, kicking her feet up on the dashboard. Padawan Iirim Tal was a public menace, who distracted younglings from their lessons, spent half of his time either climbing the sides of Talravin with some wild animal or another or catapulting himself off them with the Force, and was the reason she had to spend time she should have been teaching Initiates instead convincing them that it was unwise to pick up a training saber to do something flashy and dangerous with it. Apparently, he had some hand in bringing the Jedi intelligence on Exephos. Zorru sincerely doubted he was nearly that capable.

She supposed, then, of the group available, she was the most detached and reasonable, or at least, it seemed so to her. Yet, it was a very different kind of diplomacy than she was used to. She doubted she had been much help. She was also an ill fit. Half the Jedi left in the Order seemed content to chatter on about the merits of the Sith--('as if they had merits', she thought)--and ignore the very pressing needs of their continued survival. That duty fell to her.

The pale Zabrak rubbed her face, sighing. This was petty anger, she told herself. She needed to release it if she was to meet with the family of the child she was testing in anything resembling a Jedi demeanor. A calm head and an even mind, not one torn by frustrations and annoyance, would make it clear if the Force's will gathered around the child she was meeting. And, more practically, if the child was as Force-sensitive as her list indicated, they would pick up on her emotions in the Force... and it would upset them.

She took a deep, slow breath, eyes closed, then pulled out her holocommunicator, punching in a familiar frequency. "Poul? Master Fell?"

Poul Fell was a very large and very loud Besalisk who had been in charge of Zorru's Initiate Clan. At the Temple, they had called her Master Foul. Master Fell had, rather than lecture them about it, adopted it as a mark of pride, and started to introduce herself to strangers to the temple as "Master Foul Fell".  A very small Zorru had told her in no uncertain terms that she thought that was stupid and undignified, and Poul had told her that the only way to stop her was to become her Padawan. Which she had. Poul had a way of making annoyances and frustrations seem pointless to hold on to.

A small holo-image of the woman flickered on, peering at her. "Zo! Good to hear your voice. Are you on your way to Glee Anselm?"

Zorru nodded, the clink of the jewelry in her ears cutting through some of the holo-static. "I am. I just left Coruscant maybe... twenty minutes ago."

"What's that in your voice?" Poul paused, then scowled. All four of the Jedi Master's arms crossed across her chest. "Who did you yell at?"

"Why do you think I yelled at anyone?" Zorru asked.

"I can hear the strain. Don't think I don't know it. You are itching to get something off your mind." She blinked, and ruffled the frill along her head. "Well?"

The younger woman frowned, then sighed. "It's not Tython."

"And that is not an answer. What did I always tell you?"

Zorru paused. "... Holding in anger isn't healthy. It makes wounds."

"And?" Poul pressed, eyes wide and expectant.

"Yelling at people also makes wounds."

Poul shook her head, frill ruffling with motion as she did. "-- No, no, the other thing."

Zorru thought. "A Jedi who is honest about their attachments can let go of them."

"Hrm." Poul made a pleased, throaty sound, then unfolded her arms. "You called me for some other reason than letting me know you were on your way."

Zorru nodded, then, without prelude, launched into, "Are the Jedi losing their way?"

".... What?"

"We-- are we-- I just spoke with a Master who tried to tell me that there were Sith who walked in the Light." She scowled again, then looked at her master with a hand thrown carelessly into the air. "Sith. In the Light. It's absurd and ridiculous. How can a Master think that way?"

"When I found you, Zorru, you were in the Sith Empire. Do you think you walked in Darkness?"

"Not by choice," Zorru answered softly, then with more force, "And yes. I did. It was only because of you and the Jedi that I do not now. They don't... understand... How can you have what you do, as a Jedi, look at the Sith, and just-- overlook it?"

Poul blinked again, slowly. "Overlook it? Zo... What are we talking about? If a Sith can turn towards the Light, or--"

Zorru frowned. Calling had been a mistake. Making thoughts string together in a reasonable, understandable order, was not going to happen. Explaining this over holocomm was not going to happen. "It isn't important, Master. I'm on mission now. I won't bother you with it."

"Now, wait a moment..." She heard sounds from the holo-image, and saw Poul stand up out of her peripheral vision, moving off-screen. The Jedi Master's voice drifted back to her: "Glee Anselm, you said? I haven't had a good swim in a while. And my feet hurt guiding younglings back and forth. Padawan Kesh has so many stairs..."

"Master, no, that's not necessary. I'm not a Padawan anymore. I can do this myself."

The Besalisk came back into view, a cloak and a small pack over one of her four shoulders. "No, no, I insist. Two Jedi will be much more welcoming for the poor child's family. They are long overdue for a visit... I just hope it hasn't stressed them too much. You know how it is, when a youngling tries to speak through the Force, but doesn't understand why nobody can hear them. Tantrums. With floating toys."

Zorru sighed, running another hand across her face. It would be good, though, to meet her Master again. And truthfully, the thought of swimming alone without Poul's powerful aquatic strokes beside her was daunting. All the children from her list were on aquatic worlds, as well, even one from Ojom. Poul's presence alone would help.

"... Okay," Zorru conceded. "I will wait for you when I arrive, and we can go together."

"Wonderful. And when we are there, you will unburden all of your troubles, before doing anything too important."

Zorru nodded. Then, softly, signed off with, "Thank you, Master."

"Always, my Padawan. Sorry, not Padawan, Knight Zorru."

Poul grinned with a smile that moved her entire face, then vanished from sight as the comm ended. Zorru put the device away, focusing once again on the spiral of hyperspace. Only a few hours, she told herself. Just a few hours, and she could relax. Opting for meditation to fill that time, she folded her legs on the starship chair, placed her hands in her lap, and began to breathe, slowly. Perhaps she could prove to Poul she didn't need her guidance to let go of her anger or her misgivings by ridding her mind of them before she landed.
« Last Edit: 05/26/17, 01:32:48 AM by Noth »
The Jedi: Bren (Archaeologist), Iirim (Healer), Zorru (Recruiter), Orans (Master), Aybekk (Padawan)
The Politicians: Varooth (Senator), Seirion (Aide/Spy), Ayrak (King)
The Mandos: Urziya (Rallymaster), Terr (Chieftain)
The Outlaws: Telen (Slicer), Majia (Pirate/Smuggler)
The Imperials: Athuuna (Agent), Zhekrazh (Lord), Z'ridia (Apprentice)

Offline Noth

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Re: Tales from Clan Noth
« Reply #14 on: 06/08/17, 01:23:54 PM »
(( Paging @Niarra for the inspiration to do a story about boring legal ramblings, @Kremon for the current plot and the news post that synched perfectly with this, @Kitalye for linking me to some Zabrak fan-stuff that added nice depth to this, and @Eirwynn because your character was mentioned! ))

At Tira'Noth Stronghold:


"Kabno!" Varooth swore as he got to the end of the letter on his datapad. News from the Senate... and not good news. Senator Kai Ush was being 'detained' by the Senate, for how long, who knew. Even his name was under wraps, but anyone with a finger on the pulse of Zabraki politics would recognize the man's fastidiously well-kept horns and serene bearing.

Along with him, they were holding a would-be assassin, who had attempted to find justice against Exephos. Varooth quickly scanned through the footage of the event, peering at the man in question. A Tystel MK-III could be clearly seen in the assassin's hands. Not an ordinary assassin, then. Someone with accesss to high-grade and distinctly Zabraki-crafted weapons. 'Idiot,' he thought quickly. With a weapon like that, no assassin would need to get close to Exephos, just stand some distance away and fire. The man was either hoping to become a martyr or not actually a skilled assassin. Which was odd, given that every Iridonian recieved mandatory military training... He should know better.

The councillor's thoughts suddenly flashed back to his conversation with the Jedi--Master Volaren--who had warned him against the threat of an assassination. He had laughed at the suggestion that a traditionalist Zabrak zealot posed any threat to him, and she had reminded him the threat lay, not from within, but from enemies in the Senate who would use the Zabrak as patsies and turn Varooth into a martyr. He felt the blood start to drain from his face at that thought. It could be--

No. That was absurd. He shook the thought away. His own security had picked up nothing by way of threat to him. If this assassin was a plant, then the danger was on the political floor and focused squarely on Exephos, not from a sniper's bolt on his own home planet. Still, he made a note to double his security, just in case.

A beep from his datapad signalled that he had a new mail. Sighing, he gave it a periphal scan before opening the file. After a long series of opening formalities, he read:

Quote
Varooth Noth, Chieftain of Clan Noth:

You are summoned to the chambers of the Stewards of the High Temple at Malidris at 1400 Standard Hours, today. It is recommended you come armed and prepared to answer Kaldralu Selenor. It is also recommended you take precautions not to be followed or seen by media.

Oen'mai'ulen,

Bez Ordae, Speaker for the Tolnitchaelen of the Temple

Wonderful. A summons to the Temple to talk to lawkeepers, and a reminder to come prepared to fight a duel. He supposed there were worse consequences for the events he had set into motion. The letter had no mention of exactly what he was being accused of, but he could guess... inciting violence, disturbing the peace between the clans, and Varooth was sure they suspected him as the hand behind the assassination attempt. Using mercenaries to eliminate political rivals was an unspoken rule of Zabraki politics, so long as you did not fail--the only problem being, Varooth was not actually behind this one.

Standing, he put the datapad away and pressed a button on his comm. "Seirion, contact Captain Pel and tell her to please gather my security forces. We are making a trip to the capitol."

***

In the Heart of Malidris:


The chambers of the High Temple's legal wing was not unlike those of the High Council itself--sombre, ornate, dark metals and rose-tinted stained glass reflecting the eternal twilight of Iridonia. Malidris stood in the middle of a vast desert, uniquely situated so that eternal dawn played out on one side of the city, spilling onto Capital Square and the buildings therein, and eternal shadows sheltered half of the city in shadow, wreathing lamplit streets and ceremonial processions under glittering marvels of technological achievement. Cutting-edge research laboratories and ancestral temples. Civilization and the wilds. Darkness and light. Iridonia and its capitol were nothing if not full of contradictions.

Its approach to justice, Varooth thought, was no different. There were no courts on Iridonia... there were only clan councils, the High Council, and the Temples. The Zabrak were among the first colonists into space, engineers prized for their long histories and ingenuity, scientists and surgeons who refused to be anywhere but on the cutting edge of their fields, and yet, he was standing in the middle of a temple, about to answer questions on tribal law, and probably cite a long list of his ancestors as his credentials. The irony of this, in light of calling Exephos' crimes backwards and archaic, was not lost on him.

A guard wearing robes over her armor approached him with a small bow. "They will see you now, Edar."

"Thank you, ay'Vyshtal." Varooth returned the motion, and followed the armored woman inside.

Odd, using that word for a Protector of the Temple. He was so used to using it for Jedi Knights and Masters. They certainly took up more of his time than Varooth ever spent in the actual temples of his homeworld. I will have have change that, he thought, to win the affection of the traditional clans.

The thought hung with him as they walked through several impressive corridors. Some were large and spacious, airy in the way that sacred places always were, smoke drifting through the rafters, steps of candles and offering-laden statues glimpsed through curtained doorways. Others were small, shadowy, lined with painted icons and dizzying glass patterns devoted to certain stories or gods. Finally, they emerged into a sparse hallway, where the guard placed her hand on a panel by the door. Above the door, a divided sculpture stood watch--Ath, or Nath, the god of the dead--and he eyed it with suspicion and skepticism. That wasn't ominous at all. With a soft chime, the door slid open, and the guard stood ready by it.

"They await you inside, Edar Noth," she said, resting one blade of her zhaboka against the ground patiently.

He gave her a nod and began to move through the portal. "Again, my thanks, ay'Vyshtal."

She nodded, and closed the door behind him. As his eyes adjusted to the new lighting, he found himself in a circular room, half of which was taken up by a curved table at which several Zabrak sat, robes emblazoned with various symbols of the Temple. Short lecterns were placed on the table, the dim glow of screens set into them lighting up the jato of the gathered Stewards. Varooth approached them without hesitance, stopping at the center of the room with a gracious bow.

"Tolnitchalen, Tominyetalen, it's an honor to be called."

He eyed the designs on their robes as he stood, and the jato on their faces. These were the keepers  of law, history, and knowledge of the Zabrak, as well as the guardians of religious lore. The Stewards of the Temple--the Tolnitchalen--were secular guardians, while the Guardians--Tominyetalen--were religious ones. Neither were priests, but they were not exactly secular either. Their office was still, technically, a religious one. He supposed he should be grateful that he had been summoned here, and not in front of the High Council. It boded well that this might be a more informal procedure.

A very pale-skinned Zabrak with purple eyes fixed him with an appraising look. Her robes marked her as a Steward, and her seating as the head of the assembly. Varooth checked that off as a good thing. He felt far more comfortable speaking to law than to gods and spirits.

"Juz Edar Varooth Noth," the woman addressed him, with a small nod. "You are causing quite a stir. I am Bez Ordae, and I am speaker for this assembly. Do you know why you are here?"

"I can guess." Varooth folded his hands and watched Bez with an umoving posture. "You suspect my involvement in the recent attempt on Colonel Exephos's life. It is also possible, I hope, you are here to answer my calls for justice on my clan's behalf, or perhaps to reprimand me for political agitating. Is this not so?"

Ordae gave him an intent frown. Some of the Stewards smiled faintly, and he noted that as either a win--he was gaining rapport--or a loss--if they did not take him seriously. He would have to watch closely to learn which.

Looking down at her lectern, Ordae began to speak, "You are here to clarify certain points about your clan's relationship with those effected by your call, and to clarify your intent in the matter you brought to the High Council. Specifically, if it is a matter for the High Council, if you were right to call for it, and how you plan to act." She looked up at him. "We are also intent to ascertain your involvement, or not, in the recent assassination attempt, yes."

"I understand." As he said this, his brain checked off several suspicions. This had probably been intended as an informal meeting, based on the order of those accusations. He was also making enemies. Someone believed his call's legality was worth questioning, enough to try to stop it. Enemies, in Varooth's mind, were a good thing. It meant that he posed a threat, and posing a threat meant that he could win. As for the assassin... In that, he could at least claim full innocence.

Ordae nodded, and began with her question, "Please introduce yourself to the room, and tell us what roles you hold in your clan."

"I am Varooth Noth. I am a chieftain of Clan Noth, a member of the clan council, and I represent them on the High Council. Our clan city on Iridonia and our stronghold in Malidris are under my protection and leadership. My grandmother is Be'edar of the clan and oversees our colonies on other worlds."

"Other worlds being...?"

"Iridia, primarily," he answered. "Also several space stations."

Several of the stewards stirred, clearly taking note of that. Iridia was a resource-rich world, an exporter of starships and starpilots, and one of the oldest Zabrak colonies. It was a reminder that Clan Noth had influence.

"And why does your grandmother not speak for your clan on the High Council, as Be'edar?"

Varooth hesitated. Of course they would ask that. "The Be'edar of Clan Noth is a sang, and feels her duties are best kept in the realm of the spiritual than the political. To be frank, she is also of an age where she cannot answer Kal'dralu Selenor, and so those duties fall to me."

The speaker gave him a very direct look, though some of the Tominyetalen beside her nodded approvingly. Citing his grandmother's faith had won him a few friends, but, apparently, not Ordae. She blinked, as if taking note of something, and asked, "And how did you become a chieftain of your clan?"

"Of the clan's current host of Elders, I was the one with the most military experience and support among the people."

Ordae nodded, then looked up at him. "Your service, was it with the Republic Military, or with the Zabrak Army of Iridonia?"

"The Zabrak Army, Keynal." While he did not incline his head, nor stir from his still posture, Varooth chose to start using Ordae's honorific as Temple Speaker. She did not, so far, seem to like him very much, so perhaps some respect would even out her opinion. "Though I fought alongside the Republic Military during the first Great Galactic War when it came into the Iridonia system."

"I see..." She marked a few things off on her screen, a soft series of beeps filling the room. "Then, you have a good relationship with the Republic Military, would you say?"

Varooth drew in a soft breath, considering his answer before he began. "No more or less than any other who fought in that conflict," he answered. "I bear them no ill-will. They seemed to me to be honorable, and our membership in the Republic carries with it a certain respect towards its and our defenders."

Ordae made a soft 'harumph'ing sound. "And this goodwill, it does not extend to a present leader of the Republic Military - this Colonel Exephos."

"Would you place a Commander of the Zabrak Army on a pedestal if he were to commit the crimes of murder and torture, Keynal?" He narrowed his eyes and stared at her. "Or would you decry his actions and replace him with a soldier better suited to the position? Why should it be any different from the Republic? Colonel Exephos's position does not make him above the law."

"I see..." She nodded, and seemed, if not happy with his answer, at least mollified by it. She gave another nod to herself, turning her face back to her screen. "And your clan's relationship to the Jedi Order, and this Enclave you spoke of?"

"We have sheltered a Jedi Enclave for some centuries. They are our guests, and we their hosts. Clan Noth bears a large degree of Force-sensitivity, and has given up a child to the Jedi or the Iridonian temples in most generations."

"And the Jedi you mention--this Bren Akket--he is not of Clan Noth."

It was a statement, not a question, but Ordae's tone clearly meant him to answer as if it was. Varooth paused before answering, "No, Keynal. He is not. His surname is that of his birth clan."

A small smile touched Ordae's face. He decided he did not like that smile. It boded badly. She moved a few things on her desk and waved a hand to one of her colleagues. "I have no more questions at this moment. I cede the chamber to Tominyetal Kai-Dulk."

Oh good. Time to defend his piety. Varooth turned an appraising look to Kai-Dulk, an bald-headed Zabrak with orange skin, strong and weathered, looking as if he had just walked out of the wastelands. The man had a sharp look to his eyes, as if every word he spoke might be a challenge, and when he spoke, his voice held the poetic cadence of one used to oral histories. Definitely a Tominyetal.

"Juz Noth," Kai-Dulk began. "You have asked for blood to be given for this man, Bren Akket, this Jedi, and yet, his name is not Noth, but Akket. To whom shall this blood be given? To Clan Noth, or to Clan Akket?"

Varooth frowned. "... I do not call for blood, Tominyetal. Only for justice."

Kai-Dulk nodded. "I see no difference, at least, should you seek justice under Iridonian law. Is that your wish?"

Varooth shifted, glad for his ceremonial robes which hid his now uneasy stance. "My wish is for the Republic to strip Colonel Exephos of the honors he is presently being given and try him for his crimes. Under our law it would be the same. The elders of a clan judge their own. For Exephos, that falls to the Republic."

Kai-Dulk frowned, then lifted a hand as if orating as he replied, "And yet, you call on Iridonia, and you cite this... Akket, you cite the taking of his jato as your reason."

"I do, but also the murder of my clansman, Jeth."

"And I ask again, under whose laws does Exephos fall criminal? Clan Noth? Clan Akket? Iridonia? The Republic?"

Varooth frowned at Kai-Dulk in return, a crease forming between his eyes. "All of them. We are of the Republic, and we follow Republic law. My appeal to my fellow chieftains was to make their voices in chorus with mine. The Republic cannot ignore so many calling at once. Last I checked, neither torture nor murder were legal in the Republic or the Zabrak worlds. Under the accords with which we entered the Republic, Republic law supercedes tribal law in those matters."

"... Except in the Slaret Vyi."

Varooth blinked, then glared at Kai-Dulk. "What?"

"Res' Slaret Vyi. Under Iridonian law, one who has been made kelo--an exile--for the crimes of murder and torture may, himself, be hunted and killed, legally, by his clan or a mercenary of their choosing."

Varooth stared, then managed with only a small bit of venom, "The Blood Hunt has been illegal since Iridonia joined the Republic. As our justice system assumes guilt before innocence, honor killings are not appreciated by the Senate."

Kai-Dulk smiled a little. "Nor, it seems, by you."

"No." Varooth frowned. "We are a people of both science and war. I would foster the former in us, and maintain our place in the Republic."

Kai-Dulk turned to his lectern, moving around some unseen windows on his screen. After a moment's pause, he recited, "Your words, to the High Council: 'My fellow Iridonians, surely you recognize this torture as one of the oldest and cruelest calls to war under our planet's laws. To skin a jhere and send him back to his clan.'"

"Those are my words..." Varooth began, his frown remaining on his face."What of them?"

"The Kaldralu you invoke, the skinning of a clansman, is to mark a Zabrak as kelo by force. This is, indeed, a call to war, under the old laws. It is to invoke Slaret Vyi against the skinner. Yet you stand here and declaim the practice." The weathered Zabrak leaned forward over his lectern, gripping the top of it to look at Varooth. "So which is it? Do you seek Exephos's blood, or not? It seems to me you have called your fellow chieftains to much more than words."

Varooth stared at him a moment, breathing in and out quietly. He had intended the speech to be rhetoric, not a literal call to war. Yet... Of course it had not been taken that way. What were Ordae's words again? Clarity. The Stewards sought clarity. He was not being accused of this, only asked what his words meant. Taking a deep breath, he answered, "I seek to uphold the laws of the Republic. Exephos's punishment will be on them. I seek only to make them attend to it."

"Then you do not call for Slaret Vyi?"

Varooth shook his head. "No. I do not."

Kai-Dulk nodded and sat back. "Daynas, Juz Noth. As it is, you could not invoke it even if you wished to. Clan Akket spoke to us already. They declared Jedi Bren as tlestri, both for losing his jato and for leaving the clan in the first place. As he was not of their clan, legally, losing his jato is not a dishonor to them to be answered."

"But--" Varooth interrupted, then frowned. "Forgive me, Tolminyetal Kai-Dulk, but it must be answered. Of Clan Akket or not, Knight Akket was my guest, under my care, and he suffered grave injury."

A feminine voice spoke, and Varooth turned his attention back to Ordae as she moved to answer.

"Yes, your invocation of the Law of Hospitality..." Ordae said, nodding first to him, then to Kai-Dulk. "This we consider an answerable matter. I do not think, however, you will like our answer to it."

Varooth relaxed faintly, giving the Speaker a nod in return. "I am listening."

She waved a hand to Kai-Dulk. "As Tolminyetal Kai-Dulk has pointed out, Clan Akket has disowned Jedi Bren as tlestri. Yet, he had jato. Did he undergo his Selenoren with Clan Noth?"

Varooth paused, then shook his head. "The Jedi oversee the Selenoren of their Initiates who choose to take them. It is my understanding that they were given to him by his elders in the Jedi."

"This is not the first time the legal standing of the Jedi under Iridonian law has come into question. It is the first to deal with this type of injury. Individual Jedi may maintain their clan allegiances, though we understand this is discouraged by the Order. Under our laws, therefore, the Jedi are considered to be their own Clan, as they pass jato between their own generations and maintain their own manner of sovereignty. You understand this?"

"I understand, Speaker." He squinted at her faintly. "I do not see yet how this is something I'll dislike."

"Do the Jedi seek justice against this Colonel?"

"If I knew that," Varooth answered, "I would hardly be at liberty to tell you. As it is, I believe they are taking a political route, rather than a direct one."

"And does Knight Akket seek vengeance for what was done to him?" Ordae asked.

"... No. He does not."

"Then whose honor are you attempting to restore?" she asked again. "Knight Akket's, the Jedi's, or your own?"

Varooth looked between Ordae and Kai-Dulk. The questioning became clearer to him, now. He began to laugh softly. How very Iridonian. This entire line of questioning was not about what punishment was fit for Exephos, but exactly who the dishonor lay with. This was why the summons asked him to come armed. "Honored Tolnitchalen, I believe it is my own. I invoked the Law of Hospitality as broken. Bren Akket was my guest, and I his host. The answer for his injuries lies at least in half with my failure to guard him."

Kai-Dulk spoke up again, to ask, "And the other half? Do you feel it lies with Exephos? As you said..." He brought up his screen again. "'Exephos's actions violated the Law of Hospitality, and so Clan Noth demands justice be met in kind.'"

"Do you feel differently?" Varooth asked, turning his eyes to Kai-Dulk. He was beginning to grow more than weary of being asked questions the Stewards already had answers for.

"To break the Law of Hospitality, it must first be invoked." Kai-Dulk met Varooth's gaze. "Did you at any point offer food to Colonel Exephos?"

"No."

"Did he perhaps purchase something from the cantina?"

"No. Colonel Exephos, we believe, infiltrated Tira'Noth by posing as a military surveyor. His armor allowed him to slip unseen through our compound. At no point was he able to stop, nor was he stopped by others, to be given a meal."

"Then, Juz Noth, the only broach of the Law of Hospitality he is guilty of... is wearing a mask. Shall we fine him for his secrecy?"

Varooth frowned at the flippancy in the man's question, but shook his head. "No, I don't think a fine is worth the life of my guard captain."

Kai-Dulk's victorious smile faded at that, brought back to the earnestness of the situation. He nodded. "It is our opinion that the fault lies squarely on your shoulders, as a breach of your role as host. Exephos's other crimes will be taken separately from this matter." He looked to Ordae, then gestured towards her. "Keynal Ordae may take this matter from here. I would ask your blood on this matter."

Ordae nodded, folding her hands on the lectern. "I agree. It is a particularly egregious breach, Juz Noth. One which requires banishment. I would recommend Kaldralu Selenor."

Varooth frowned at them, then sighed. Kaldralu Selenor meant 'Call to Challenge', or more aptly, call to a duel. It was a way of lessening a punishment, and, in modern days anyway, something of a formality. The Stewards did not actually plan on banishing him (though he was certain some would be happy if he were), but formality required them to sentence first, then hear him invoke. If he did not, sentence stood. Exactly the sort of thing that made him want to stay in the Republic. Operating primarily under Republic laws lessened the scenarios in which Kaldralu Selenor became necessary.

He breathed in and nodded. "Then, I challenge."

Ordae nodded. "The Protector who guided you in can be assigned as your proxy, should you need it."

Varooth snorted. "I don't need it."

"Very well." Ordae noted it in her log, and from the corner of his vision, Varooth saw a pair of Temple Protectors fall into place by the door. Now that he had invoked a duel, he wasn't going to leave the chambers of the Stewards without seeing it through. Still, Ordae's lectern beeped away. She began to speak again, "We can settle that later. With your invocation of the Law of Hospitality and Knight Akket's legal standing out of the way, we must focus on the death of your clansman, Jeth Noth."

Finally. Varooth straightened his shoulders and watched Ordae attentively. "Do the Stewards blame me for his death as well?"

"No." Ordae folded her hands again. "In this we find ourselves in the same dilemma as yourself. Colonel Exephos is not of Iridonia, and so our laws in this matter do not apply to him. He must be tried under the laws of the Republic."

"Then you support my call to the High Council to lean on the Senate and demand justice?" As if it would be that easy. Varooth doubted she would reply 'yes'.

"The Tolnitchalen are arbiters, Juz Noth. We cannot take a side in political matters. However, we do seek to know, to what extent are you willing to go to attain the justice you seek?"

Varooth nodded, slowly. "You want to know if I sent that assassin in the Senate press chamber."

"Did you?"

"No."

"Can you prove that?"

Varooth sighed. "I will make my records public to the Temple, if that's what you want. I didn't hire an assassin, and if I did, I wouldn't hire such a clumbsy one with such poor aim."

He bared his teeth at his last words, which earned him a faint nod from Kai-Dulk and a disapproving glare from Ordae. The Speaker made another note on her screen, then nodded.

"We will go through those records and summon you again if we find anything worth looking at more closely. Recent events, however, have left a void in the form of Senator Kai Ush." She made another beeping notation, then looked back at him. After a pause, she continued, "It is our opinion that the High Council is not the place to pursue justice against Colonel Exephos. There are, however, wounds which you must mend. You are a passionate man, Juz Noth, with a strong sense of... patriotism. Your fervor has hewn conflict. Therefore I set you three challenges." She raised a hand with one finger uplifted. "One, win your duel. Cleanse yourself of Knight Akket's blood and the stain against your person. Two--" She lifted a second finger. "--calm the passions you have stoked in the High Council, and prove that your patriotism towards the Republic and your peaceful ideals will win out over bloodlust."

Varooth listened, waiting for the third. As Ordae remained silent, he asked, "And the last?"

"As I said, there is a void left by Kai Ush. Do your passions towards your clan extend to all of Iridonia, Juz Noth?"

He blinked, then frowned. "... Are you asking me to become a Senator?"

"I make no promise, only offer challenge. Win your duel, pacify the clans, and when you have done that, ask yourself if you would rather not ask the Senate directly for your justice."

Varooth stared, then shook his head. "That is, in its own way, a kind of banishment, you realize..." He raised a hand to rub the scars of his jato. Senator was asking a bit much, and he would still have to win the clans over to get it, but... a representative? With just that, he might be able to seek more directly, ask his questions to those who would better answer it. Even if it was, in essence, a kind of banishment. Still, it would not last forever... "Speaker Ordae, if you will allow me to think on this, I will return with an answer."

"Win your duel first, Juz Noth." Ordae inclined her head, then stood. "That is all our business for today. Your Protector will take you to choose a weapon, and you will meet back here in an hour."

"As it is." Varooth gave them another bow, short this time, and turned to go--only to be met with the two Protectors blocking his path. One of them, the woman from before, gave him a wry smile.

"Sorry, Edar. You come with us."

He sighed, but returned the smile. He motioned for the Protectors to lead, and followed them into the adjoining room.

***

Varooth Noth emerged from the Temple some hours later, sporting a few new cuts and bruises, but looking triumphant. As he strode down the steps, the cluster of Clan Noth guards and aides who were lounging around the base climbed to their feet quickly, returning to some semblance of order to greet their chieftain.

"... Got in a fight, Edar?" Pel asked, the new Guard Captain grinning as she put her helmet back on.

"And won," Varooth assured her. "You now have full legal permission to reprimand me if you hear me lecturing about any broaches of the Law of Hospitality."

"Noted," she replied, shaking her head.

Spinning around, Varooth looked for a certain silver-haired Zabrak, and grabbed the young man's shoulder. "Seirion. We need to speak."

"Uhhh..." Seirion's eyes went big, and he nodded. "Sure. What... What do you need to talk about?"

"I need you to remove your attentions from the Jedi at this time, and instead focus it on the other clans. Coordinate with Knight Akket. Do whatever you must to restore his public image on Iridonia and report back to me with your findings on the other clans as you find it. Are you still traveling between Iridonia and Coruscant?"

Seirion nodded. "Sometimes, sure."

"Your task now is to ascertain my safety from the outside, while Captain Pel here continues to monitor threats from within. You have many Jedi friends. Use them."

Seirion paled and glanced at Pel, blinking a few times, then back at Varooth. "This sounds a lot like either a promotion or a punishment."

Pel rolled her eyes, shrugging her zhaboka off her shoulders. "I think it's both."

Varooth began walking without another word. Seirion followed behind, grumbling as he took out a small handful of datapads, as Pel took the lead with her weapon.

"This better not end up like the last time I talked to Jedi," Seirion muttered softly, as they made it to the shuttle which would lead back to Clan Noth. As the ship bagan to move, Varooth leaned over again, as if seeing that the man was already beginning to take notes.

"Ah, and Seirion... Please begin to gather notes for a possible summit regarding the current conflicts. I will not stand for separatists taking my words out of my mouth and twisting them. I'd like a list of names of negotiators, names of opposition leaders, names of Republic supporters and veterans of the Great Galactic War who may wish to attend."

"Sir?" Seirion looked up from his writing. "What's the point of the summit, sir?"

"We are putting to rest this idea of leaving the Republic. We will appeal to both the traditionalists and the loyalists, at once. Or at the very least, we will put into motion some form of healing."

"... What about Colonel Exephos?"

"We will adress that as well, in time, but as one group, not as several crying voices shouting over one another. For now, gather my information, and make that list."

"Right. Okay."

As Seirion returned to writing all of this down, Varooth sighed and sat back, watching the desert landscape shift below them. His wounds were few. He was not so aged yet that he was starting to slow in a fight.

In a sense, the duel had calmed him... He was reminded of what the Jedi always said, to trust in the Force, that all was at it willed. Perhaps, he would have to leave Knight Akket's troubles to Knight Akket--or to the Force he werved. At the same time, the fight has renewed his energy with a promise. One step back, two steps forward. All was a dance. Perhaps he could not bring all his grievances to Exephos's door, but he could at least bring a few, and this time, it was possible he might have the backing of both Iridonia and the Republic behind him. It was a slight hope, but that hope was all he needed. Plans were built on hope. For the first time since Jeth's murder, Varooth felt that raw fury was taking shape into something resembling a plan... and that could take down a Colonel.
The Jedi: Bren (Archaeologist), Iirim (Healer), Zorru (Recruiter), Orans (Master), Aybekk (Padawan)
The Politicians: Varooth (Senator), Seirion (Aide/Spy), Ayrak (King)
The Mandos: Urziya (Rallymaster), Terr (Chieftain)
The Outlaws: Telen (Slicer), Majia (Pirate/Smuggler)
The Imperials: Athuuna (Agent), Zhekrazh (Lord), Z'ridia (Apprentice)