The Dark Hunter of Taruma - Invite Only
Lights blinked on and off on the consoles and a slight whirring noise could be heard in the otherwise silent command center of the space station. Things had been dull as of late as the station orbited Karufr. The crew on board monitored the systems in a routine manner.
A chirp cut through the stillness like a knife. Crimson lights began to flash; begging for attention.
Aleena Kalar started at the sudden cacophony that erupted before her.
"Sir, we have a distress signal coming in from Taruma." The Ensign flicked a few of the knobs and dials on her console. Her eyes quickly scanned the incoming message as her heart rate sped up. It had been awhile since anything of interest had happened.
"What is it?" The Captain called out.
"There's been an attack of some kind."
"Make sure everything is accounted for; we don't want a problem like last time."
"Sir! Yes Sir!" The clerk moved off to double check her records. Shaz'air shook his head. Last time, they were short a couple of crates which resulted in an angry mob when the realization that they didn't get their latest shipment of cookies set it.
The Quaestor of Taldryan made his way back towards his personal chambers. He'd been up for just over 24 hours and his bed called to him like a long lost lover.
A yawn escaped him moments before his com when off.
"Sir, we have an emergency on Taruma."
Shaz'air sighed heavily, "Can't Ashia handle this?" He stifled another yawn.
"Sir, I have contacted Mistress Keibatsu as well but..."
"She is more then capable of handling any problems. I'm heading to bed. She can brief me in 0800 hours." With that, the Quaestor flipped off his comlink and made his way to his quarters.
The forest was anything but peaceful. The sounds of birds and insects sang out in a cacophonous chorus. The air was still slightly heavy from the day’s humidity but the three Dark Jedi took no notice as they made their way through the dense under growth into a small clearing near a river.
“We’ll make camp here tonight. I think we’re getting closer.” Luc H’darr reached out with the Force to see if any predators were nearby.
Kia’ra plopped down on the stump of a tree. “Good. I’m tired.” She blew a loose strand of hair out of her amber eyes and began rummaging through her pack.
Ryo just shook his head. “You’re supposed to be using the Force to counter that, you know. That was in our initial training.”
Kia’ra ignored him and started to make camp. Ryo moved to help her.
“I’m going to go secure the area.” Luc moved off into the trees while the two made their camp and settled in for the night.
“Kia’ra! Wake up!” Ryo screamed as he scrambled to gather his belongings.
“Wha?” The Guardian rubbed the sleep out of her eyes as she sat up. “What’s the matter?”
“Luc hasn’t returned and I heard something big in the trees a little ways off.”
The girl bolted up right, “Luc’s not back yet?” She hurried to pull her boots on when a loud screech echoed throughout the trees.
Both Journeymen froze; their eyes darted around as the reached out with the Force to find the source of the noise.
“There!” Ryo pointed as crunching was heard off in the distance. The sound of small trees being snapped like twigs reached their ears and grew louder as another shrill reverberated around them.
“It’s coming this way!” She screamed as both bolted away from the sound and into the trees.
Pandemonium ensued as the two leapt over rocks and shot past trees. Kia’ra lost her footing and slid down a slight incline, ending in a heap at the bottom. A scream left her lips unbidden.
“What!? What is it?!” Ryo scrambled down the embankment to make sure she was ok.
The body of their comrade lay in ruins very near where she had landed.
“Frell! What did this?!”
Another shriek was heard overhead as a large black mass moved overhead.
“We need to get out of here!” Ryo sent a distress call out from his communicator.
OOC – Your mission: Go to Taruma and find out what happened to the Journeymen. More details will come up as the story progresses.
You have unread messages at your terminal. The computer’s voice said.
Lokasena looked up from a microscopic enhancer which he was using the view the last samples of
LC-8 varient J. A viral based prion that he artificially created. The previous samples had been unstable. Corvinus’ hope had been fueled as he observed the virus’ replication pattern in bovine DNA. Now he was annoyed that the computer interrupted him.
“Display message!” he snapped.
Several low ranking Dark Jedi are unaccounted for during exercise in nearby forest.
All available personnel form search parties at your own discretion.
Lokasena raised an eyebrow and then furled both in to a frown. “Kids wandering into the forest alone, if they get killed it’s just natural selection.”
A cracking caw came from a dark corner in the room.
“Shut up! I’m not going to drop my research, just because of some missing children.”
The sound repeated.
“Oh come on… you can’t be_”
“Oh all right, Jac, all right…” he said and let out a deep sigh. Standing up, Lokasena walked over to the corner. He extended his hand and in a split second and black bird flew over and perched on it.
“Very well, old friend. Let’s get ready for the hunt.”
It took about fifteen minutes for Corvinus to collect everything he believed he would need. No food or water, the forest would provide enough of that. He had exchanged his lab coat for a sturdy pair of black pants, a white shirt without sleeves and a short black coat. He also wore a pair of black boots without tread. He clasped his lightsaber to the inner lining of his coat and sheathed a knife to his belt. It was about eight inches long with a filet blade and a serrated spine. The handle was red wood with a metal hand guard and pommel. He also took a comm. unit and some kindling.
Lokasena walked out the door, locking it behind him. Then the tall Krath Priest walked out into the woods, the little Jackdaw on his shoulder.
Lokasena took a few steps towards the tree line, then paused, suddenly aware he was being watched. Mentally feeling for his blade, he turned slowly, prepared to meet whomever it was who was waiting for him. His gaze settled on the figure of a woman in the shadows, leant against the outside of his Laboratory. Dressed simply in tight black trousers, high boots and a loose shirt, cinched at the waist by a belt from which hung her sabre and vibroshivs, strapped to each of her thighs. As she pushed herself off the building and walked towards him the sun caught her red hair, neatly tied off her face.
"Now you didn't think you were going to sneak off into the woods for a picnic without me did you Sena? After all, you never know what might be waiting for you." Bubbs smiled at the Priest, winking as she walked past him.
"So they've got you out here to look for the kids as well then?" he asked, falling into step with her.
She grinned, "A chance to get out of the library and spend some time watching you trip over your own feet and falling into bogs? What could be more fun? Besides, I remember what trouble you and Betja got yourselves into when you were their age. If they're following in your tradition then they'll have stumbled upon something that is well beyond their ability to handle."
Resisting the urge to defend himself, Sena nodded, and cast his eye over the woods in front of him, the sun was just beginning to sink below the tops of the trees, casting long shadows across the ground, the low light bringing added richness to the colours around him. "If there was something like that out here Bubbs, we'd have found it by now, this close to our home, surely."
The Epis raised an eyebrow in response, "Tell me you didn't just say that Sena...you've been spending far too much time in that lab of yours. However many times we say we should do a proper sweep of the planet, we never actually get round to it...where would be the adventure in that?" Climbing easily over the roots of a fallen tree, she paused, and looked back at him, a cheeky smile on her lips "Come on now, keep up!"
They had been walking for a few hours, trying to reach the site of the journeymen’s last known location. As they passed a narrow stream of water, Sena said; “I need a drink.”
“Good idea…” the Epis agreed.
They knelt down beside the stream and rested for a few moments. Lokasena took a few handfuls of water to his lips. It was very cold but very satisfying. He ran his wet hands through his hair and even splashed the back of his neck a bit. Then he sat back against a tree with a loud exhale. He watched how the Epis slowly took sips from her hand. He saw a drop of water miss her lips, run over her chin, down her neck and into to the unknown. He felt his heart pounding in his ears, and he doubted it was because of the walking and climbing they had done.
Bubbles noticed him and dropped her hands in the water to cool her wrists. “What is it?” she asked with a warm tone in her voice.
“I was just thinking how often we chased some beastie or droid or run-away traitor through some forsaken place.” he quickly answered, shaking his head and snapping back to reality. “That one thing, that one guy… Always the mission inside the mission. It’s always the large battles that are remembered, not often the occurrences that led to them, or ended them.”
Bubbles smiled. “Not enough glory to reap from all our conquests?”
“That’s not it… But some acknowledgement would be nice, from time to time. We’re always the ones that appear out of the shadows, save the day, and then clock out again and go home.” Sena mused aloud to his friend. “Besides, there is one conquest I would give my life for to achieve.” he said, as his eyes studied Bubbles with far too much joy then was appropriate.
“Then what do you want?” she shrugged.
“For once, I would like to go to one of those forsaken places and say; “Behold, I am the Lord your savior.”
They both chuckled for a moment, then it turned to laughter. “We really have to work on that God-complex of yours.” Bubbles joked as she winked at him again. “And as I recall, the last beastie you chased through these woods, was of your own making.” she added.
“True, but I solved that particular problem fast enough.”
“Oh really? Seven full days alone in these woods and then another seven in a bacta-tank after we found you.”
“I killed it, it was my responsibility.” Sena was quick to retort.
“You should have told us, we could have helped you.”
Sena frowned and sat forward. “And let you go after that thing? If something would have happened to you _” he started, but did not finish his sentence.
“If something happened, then what?” she whispered.
“Then, Vodo would have killed me…” Lokasena clenched his jaw as he forced out the words.
For a moment, the two Krath just looked at each other. Then Sena got to his feet and cleared his throat. “We should probably get going again. We still have to reach the site.”
Bubbles jumped up, her cheeks had the finest shade of crimson. “Yes, absolutely… Let’s get to it.”
The two Krath made their way through the underbrush again.
Things had been hectic. The war against the Jedi had been more of a war against his rivals. Vodo Biask took joy in the surprise destruction of House Revan. Their intelligence network had been widespread, very complete, and impenetrable. His success over them only heralded what was to come. Awakening from a silent nap, the navi-computer began chirping at the former Consul. His hands floated over the touch pads with practiced ease. Years before, navigation and piloting, he would have required ground control to guide him in manually. Now, on a remote and largely uninhabited planet, the VOICE of the brotherhood brought his personal craft to a gentle landing beside the remarkable Ektrosis House Temple.
The building was mostly deserted these days, the remaining Taldryans prefered to live closer to the Clan temple on Karufr. Though a Dark Councilor now, Vodo carried the surname of his home Clan with pride. Just as deeply, the Twi'lek felt a twinge of disappointment, seeing the Temple laying unattended before him. For years after finding the Brotherhood, this edifice had been his home, base of operations, and insulation from the outside world. It had been his nest and from here, his career had launched.
He could feel the lingering presence of hundreds of former residents. He could feel his old friend's spirit, Hel-pa Sklib; The reassuring smile of his mentor, Alanna Taldrya; the congratulating handshakes and laughter of many more. Tirano Yamayura, Vardar Fen'Amar Ordo, Anubis Wrath/Khan/etc, Taigakori Yamayura, Ryo Naka, Zasati Trezech, and many more. All had profoundly affected him and he carried their lessons with him daily.
It was perhaps the comfort and safety that this place offered him that caused the Councilor to sneak away from his post from time to time for his own benefit. Here, among the luscious trees and alien fauna he could at least let his guard down. Seconds after laying foot on the familiar soil of Taruma his Comlink began chirping. Furrowing his brow, Vodo quickly snatched the damnable thing from his pocket expecting a priority message from the Grand Master. Having set the link's connectivity to private, the only messages he could receive were ones of extreme duress or urgent need. He found the message addressed to all local Comlinks, originating from Karufr. It was a local call then.
Missing Journymen... Search parties... Sounded like a problem for the Quaestor and those Journeymen. Vodo was nearly about finished placing the thing back into its holding space when it again vibrated, alerting him to a second message. This one, personally addressed to him by Shaz'air Rathden, called on him personally to conduct a search for the three Journeymen. Sneering, he put the comlink cursing his Magistrate, Ashia Kagan Keibatsu. The Aedile of Taldryan. No one had known he was coming here except his staff. They would have a talking to.
Bubbles knelt and held her hand out towards the ashes of the fire, before gingerly touching them with the back of her hand. She sighed, and shook her head before looking up to Sena who was skirting the edge of what had obviously been the Journeymen's camp. As he paused and knelt to examine something in more detail, the Epis watched him, thoughtful. He noticed her gaze and looked up at her, his expression grim.
"Wherever they went, they did it in a hurry. Their packs are still here, the bedding rolls look like they got out of them in one hell of a rush, and they even left half their weapons behind." The Priest picked up a dagger as he spoke, turned it over in his hands and tossed it onto a pile of blankets beside him. Bubbs nodded her agreement, and peered towards the treeline, struggling to see in the dim remains of light.
"They've certainly got a decent head start on us, wherever they are. This fire's been cold for a while. There's no point heading after them until we can see better to check the camp. We'll stay here until first light, have a proper scout around and plan from there," she paused, and glanced back to her companion, "Unless of course you have a better plan?"
“At the moment, I can think of nothing better than to spend the night around the campfire with you.” Sena replied, winking at her. He bent down and picked up some branches and threw them on the remains of the campfire. Kneeling down next to it, he took out a small, rolled up, leather cloth.
As he untied the leather strap and opened it, Bubbles saw two small flint stones and several strips of flexible, black material. Lokasena took one of the strips, lay it down on the branches and then hit tapped the two stoned together in the vicinity of the strip. A small spark hit the strip and within seconds it was on fire. Sena tucked away the stones and turned the strip over with his fingers, making sure the flames were making contact with the wooden branches. It only took a few minutes for the flames to become a nice warm fire.
They sat quietly across from each other for a while, pondering their options. Sena’s bird had found a perch nearby, in a tree. Many sounds could be heard, made by the creatures of the forest. Suddenly Lokasena spoke while staring at the fire. “You think he’ll come?” he asked the Epis. Bubbles looked up and frowned a little. “Knowing him, he’s already here.” she said and scanned the Priest’s face for any emotion, there was none. “When are you going to give up this stupid rivalry? He’s a good guy.” This time Sena looked up and caught Bubbles’ gaze. “When he killed Sid, I snapped. You know that, Bubbs. You were there too.” Bubbles shook her head. “I have always doubted that report. There has to be more to it than that.” Corvinus laughed. “Well, we’ll never know, will we? We’re not allowed to look into it!” he raised his voice, then realized that it wasn’t Bubbles’ fault. Frustrated with his outburst, he broke two more branches and threw them on the fire.
The emotion the Epis had been looking for, was now plain to see. She expected to see hate and a need for revenge. But what she found… was grief. The glow of the flames dancing on Sena’s face seemed to expose his thoughts. Bubbles got up and walk around the fire, only to sit down next to him. “I don’t have all the answers for you, Sena. I just know that sometimes you have to trust people, and take things on faith. Taldryan is as close a group as I know of and we need each other.
Again Lokasena’s eyes found hers, he seemed less tortured now. “We… “ he cleared his throat. “We should probably get some rest. The suns coming up in a few hours.” As they both were lying down, Sena looked up at the stars and ever so often could not help to shoot a glance at Bubbles. She was just resting quietly. It gave Sena peace of mind, to know that a good friend was close by. Although his heart probably wished she was a bit closer.
The ground surrounding the Ektrosis Temple was rough, unforgiving, and much like that in much of the rest of the planet: Over grown, nearly impenetrable, and unforgiving. Vodo remembered his own time spent traveling the labyrinthine tangle of vines, fauna, and flora. Nearly everything beyond the thin strip of cleared land surrounding the temple was dangerous if not lethal. In fact, much of what he’d learned in his first weeks here had less to do with the mysteries of the Dark Side and more to do with survival on a planet hostile to your very existence.
Despite years of neglect, the Dark Councilor’s wilderness skills were just as sharp as the day he’d last emerged from the thick of gnarled trees, spiny plants, and venomous growth. Perhaps the forest remembered him, or the frightening prosthetics legs crushing the undergrowth beneath his wickedly taloned-feet scared off his would-be predators. Within minutes, Vodo could begin to make out two distinct presences not so far off. Allies. No, friends
Emerging from the thick of the wild Vodo immediately gazed upon the faces of Bubbles Taldrya and Lokasena Corvinus. The two seemed to have been eagerly awaiting his arrival, “Forgive my tardiness.”
Bubbles smirked. She hadn't seen this Twi'lek in quite a while - and her Krath curiousity pushed her to figure out just how well he had been. "Your tardiness has been excused, old friend.. It's been a long time, Vodo."
The Voice of the Brotherhood nodded, looking at both, "That it has, Bubbles. Both of you look as though you haven't changed a bit..." he nodded. The rustling of the leaves from the looming trees grabbed his attention for a moment, before it was returned to his fellow Taldryanites. "I received the call. What's this about an attack on Journeyman?" Lokasena looked grim for a moment, eying the Epis carefully. He was very cautious with the man, and a certain anger was still directed at him.
"It looks as though a couple of the kids were out for a night or two in the forest when they were attacked; we've located their campsite. Empty. Whatever hit them, they were in a mighty hurry to get out of there. We followed their path here, back to the Temple." Vodo nodded, and was just about to open his mouth as the rumbling of ion engines filled his ears. All three looked in the direction of the noise, as one of the House's XG-1 Star Wing's flew low overhead. The group of three watched without flinching as the craft circled overhead, before proceeding to land beside Biask's personal craft.
As the assault gunboat hovered above the ground, landing gear extended from the underside as it's ion engines powered down. The ship's repulsor system allowed it to carefully descend the several meters of clearance it had to the ground, wings folding upwards. as the landing feet contacted the ground, the repulsor system de-activated and the craft shifted downwards - gravity willing it. The pilot flicked a switch, de-pressurizing the cabin. As the entry hatch unfolded to the ground, Anubis stepped out of the shadows of the entry-way and into the bright sunshine towards his comrades.
Garbed in a set of Okemi-style robes instead of his armour, the Battlemaster secured the vessel and approached the three Krath with a lightsaber of the Herald's design on one hip and his prized Sapphire blade on the other. As he neared, the three nodded slightly, determining the identity of the newest member of their hunting party by way of the Force. Vodo eyed the man up and down, studying his features. He hadn't seen the Sith outside his armour in years; a not-so-rare sight, these days. His eyes were slightly sunken, blue eyes dulled into a grey. They could all tell he was desperately due for a haircut, as well.
"My apologies for being late, master...I almost forgot where the temple was, it's been so long." Vodo rolled his eyes, sneering at the new arrival. "Let's get started, shall we?"
"So, what do we know?" asked Annedu, arms crossed. His question was directed towards Bubbles and Lokasena, as they had been the first to arrive. As they explained what they had been told themselves and seen at the Journeyman camp in the woods, as well as their tracks leading in this direction, the Voice and his Magistrate processed the information carefully. As they told their story, Bubbles did a sweep of the area - sending out a ping of Force energy in order to detect any sentient life not belonging to the smaller, native creatures of the forest. Instead, it was directed to those not-native such as the Journeyman, and anything big enough to attack the group of young ones.
Quaestor's Personal Quarters
Karufr, Kr'Tal System
The flashing red light had irritated the Miraluka for the past minute. Taking a deep breath, Shaz'air emerged from laying on top of his stomach atop of the hard duracrete floor at the bedside of his quarters. He stood up, joints and muscles become tense for a moment as he stretched his arms outright. He glanced at the bed beside him; the tucked-in sheets beneath the outer blanket had never been touched by the Humanoid since his positioning into the quarters of the Quaestor's office. His "Regent" status in Kr'Tal gave him nearly all of the earthly comforts he could garner. After the tortures of his not-too-distant past had enabled him incapable of achieving any form of comfort amongst the soft billows of pillows and cottons. No; he preferred the floor.
The muted-red light at the comm. system by the door lit up again, blinking in rapid succession. He released the air built up in his lungs in a slow motion and made his towards the comm.. He flicked the switch, opening up the outgoing input, "What is it?" He said in a baritone droll.
"Shaz'air, meet me at the command room." The Miraluka's Aedile was nothing but to the point, a quality in Ashia he had more than become used to when circumstances were at an 'irritating' state.
His outer robes were already halfway on before he switched the "received" button beside the comm., motioning to his Aedile that he was on his way. He dragged his right hand through the hair atop of his head, fingers running through his thick, dark hair before he reached for his two weapons; there was hardly any time Shaz'air was without bearing arms to his Sapphire Blade and Herald commissioned Lightsaber. He reached outward towards the small desk at the other end of the room and called upon the small communicator that rested there through the force, the small object projecting through the air and slowly landed in his hand.
With the wave of his hand, the doors to his quarters opened, the bright light of the corridor leading to the Great Hall illuminated his loosely armored, Obelisk-trimmed Temptest armor. He put the comm device up to his mouth and spoke steadily into it. "Anubis, brother. What do you know about this?"
The small device chirped before the Sith's voice echoed throughout the corridor, "I sense something larger than what anyone is expecting... this is Dark, m'lord." The Obelisk's thoughts were confirmed. Why else would Ashia call him to the war room?
The comm. device chirped once more, "Shaz'air, I think you must know... Vodo is here. As is Sena and Bubbles" The name of his master twinged a muscle in his face, and his emotions ranged from fear to comfort all in the matter of a second. The Voice of the Brotherhood was a true Krath, and darker in intentions than most would assume, even for one bearing the title of 'Voice of the Dark Lord'. Vodo had been the master of many pupils in the great Taldryan - but none of those students were as close and binding with the Epis as Shaz'air was. He had been, after all, reborn by the powers of the Krath.
His mind quickly returned to it's natural state, and he quickly found comfort once again in the notice of his fellow Taldrya's and Sena. It was no surprise that the Krath's were the first on scene.
"Give my regards to both Taldryas and Lokasena. I don't have any doubt I will be joining you shortly." The tall Miraluka placed the device in a designated slot on his belt before pushing open the doors leading to the command room. There, Ashia stood beside the Battleteam Leader and Rollmaster of Taldryan, her words penetrated the room with power. "Rigar; Rian has informed me that there was a total of 3 Journeymen who did not turn-in for roll-call in the past night, though we only received a distress message from one of them."
Her eyes averted from the Jedi Hunter to the Exarch, "Ah, Quaestor. I'm pleased you have made time for us today." She said blankly, her intentions pure before her subordinates. "Rian's office reported earlier in the morning of a distress call amongst the forests on Taruma. Three Journeymen since have not reported in. I would not have summoned you for this had I not..." her voice trailed off for a moment. The Pontifex stood up straight, her eyes darting towards the leader of Phoenix before her. "Rigar, I'd like you to check your roster for any other members who might be missing, or who might have further information on this incident right away. Report anything you find."
The Hunter clicked his heel in a form of salutation to the Taldryan Summit and exited the room without a word. Shaz'air admired the Tetrarch's willingness to obey orders.
"Shaz'air," inputted Rian. "I for one am more than intrigued by this. The Journeymen that are missing are not known for tardiness, and the level of distress that they sent out was flagged as 'urgent'. These Jedi are young, but even a Novice knows not to make a fake distress call and label it as urgent."
"Shaz'air, I feel something..." Ashia cut in, her words coarse and well chosen. The Krath was known for her craftiness in the dark arts and he was not one to question Kagan, even when his position deemed it worthy. Respect was a perfect word to describe what he felt.
"As do I, lord Taldrya," said Rian. "Taruma is unforgiving, you and I know this more than most, having been stationed there during the reign of House Ektrosis - but not this unforgiving. It's been nearly 12 hours since my office received this distress call."
"What are you saying, Templar?"
"Shaz'air, I feel that our presence is required in this matter... our immediate attention should be put into this investigation. I'm requesting that we use a Sentinel in this matter." The Krath's eyes were set on the milky-blue of her Quaestor's.
Anubis let his hand that was holding the device fall by his side, a twinge of annoyance at his friends lack for proper comm. etiquette by not signing off. His head turning towards Vodo who stared at him. "Is he coming?" Said the Epis. Anubis nodded, his blue eyes darting towards the other Krath as emotions in the force between the group rose and fell. "From what I got, Ashia will not be far behind."
Vodo's head cocked back for a split-second. He would finally be able to get that word in to his Magistrate about his whereabouts being divulged. "Let's prepare for them."
The Twi’lek’s amber eyes flicked over the campsite. Much had been disturbed; he wasn’t sure if his compatriots had fumbled around looking for clues too aggressively or if some sort of scuffle had overtaken the journeymen. He prowled the perimeter of the small clearing, observing everything while ignoring the questioning glances shot after him.
“I recommend we split into teams and begin searching into the thick of the jungle. I expect the Quaestor would appreciate some preliminary reports when he arrives.”
Vodo locked eyes with Lokasena for the briefest of moments. The electrical charge created between the two of them were nearly palatable. The VOICE then moved onto Bubbles, “I would appreciate it if you would join me, Lady Taldrya.”
A coy grin flashed across his face. Certain only the mad alchemist had seen it, he Vodo gestured into dark overgrowth.
Bubbs raised an eyebrow, ignoring the obvious tension between the two male Krath “Lady? My, I have gone up in the world. If we’re splitting up I suggest one pair goes north, I can sense something in that direction, but I can’t quite put my finger on what it is. The other group maybe west, from the looks of the undergrowth something passed that way, it could have been our missing journeymen. Unless of course you have other plans Vodo?”
The Twi’lek managed to suppress a small smile, he had been away so long he had almost forgotten Bubbs’ utter disregard for formality and propriety when amongst those she trusted. He had grown used to the ways of the Dark Council, perhaps too used to them. “Then we go west. Shall we?”
Lokasena took half a step towards the pair, but stopped at a look from Bubbles "I’ll be fine," came her voice in his head "Look after Anubis, you know this forest far better than he." Nodding acknowledgement to the Lorrdian, she turned and walked into the forest. Vodo followed close behind, Sena’s glare fixed on his back as he left.
“Well that was interesting,” Anubis commented quietly, “looks like we’re headed north.”
Sena eyes were still fixated on the back of the Voice of the Brotherhood. Anubis watched the Krath carefully for several moments, before moving towards the North. The movement caught the Priest's eye, and he soon followed quickly after his former Aedile. "There's a river about a kilometer and a half north of here, flows to the falls behind the temple. I believe that's a good place as any to start our search; it's where most of the beasts around here get their water." The Sith acknowledged Lokasena's words with a simple nod.
Annedu turned his head to face the alchemist that strode beside him. "Don't let your emotions get the better of you and cloud your judgement, Corvinus. You're smarter than that." Sena quirked an eyebrow, and almost stopped for a moment; before remembering the man's ability to determine a person's emotions by their movements; their stance. How their body flowed. He continued on, putting some space between himself and the Magistrate. He definitely needed to learn the Lorrdian's ability. Kinetic Communication was a most handy skill, indeed. "Lets spread out. Consolidating ourselves will make us an easier target. If we spread out a bit, even a hundred meters or so, we can cover more ground." As the space between the two widened, they entered the thick brush of the Taruman forest fully alert.
The Krath and Sith walked for twenty through the brush, Pushing aside any branches that got in their way. Reaching down for his comlink, the Krath opened a link with his Sith companion. "We should be close to the river at this point. There should be a large enough bank for us to walk along. We can search for our mystery creature there." Anubis nodded, tapping the microphone of his comlink twice to signal that he had received the message. The sound of running water began to fill the ears of the two Equites, as each of them readied themselves. As an extra measure, the Priest sent out a quick ping of Force energy to see if their mystery beast was sill in the immediate vicinity. He received no reply; it was clear. The two men walked into the coarse, muddy bank of the river; Anubis with his Herald-issue Juggernaut lightsaber draw.
Sena looked around, searching the area. Looking down at his shoulder, he realized that his jackdaw was still with him. Muttering quietly to the black bird, it took flight into the air. Annedu approached, having pinged the area as well. "There's no fauna of substance here; it may have already moved on since Bubbles detected it." The Human nodded, rubbing his goatee slightly. It wasn't long before his pet returned to his shoulder, and began clicking at his master. Sena nodded, "He's found tracks," moving twenty meters or so down the bank and bending down. Annedu followed, and took a look for himself at the track that their prey had left them.
It was big; quite large, in fact. Anubis had never seen anything like it. It had two large claws extending from the front of the foot, while one extended from the rear. Lokasena was puzzled. "I've seen this before... but I can't put my finger on it." He had his suspicions, which he could easily confirm. Producing a datapad, the Krath scanned the footprint and began a recognition search through his database. "Any matches?" quipped the Lorrdian, arms crossed. Sena nodded, standing upright and staring into the eyes of his companion. He was hesitant, and almost unable to believe it; but the footprint matched exactly. "Only one match in my entire database. Anubis... It's a Tarentatek," he flipped the datapad around. The screen showed the scanned footprint and match on the left, while the right side displayed information on the matched print.
Annedu's face became grim. "What direction do the track's lead?" While he had a strong idea in his mind of where he they would force them to follow, he had to be certain. "Southwest." The Lorrdian snarled, before turning and angling himself in that direction. Calling upon the Force, the Sith pushed off the wet ground and leaped towards tighter-packed ground, where he could fully push his body to it's limits in the trees and brush. "Vodo and Bubbles are in it's path!" Lokasena nodded, and followed suit. He was slower than his companion, but knew he would not be left behind. A single middle-ranked Equite could not defeat a Tarentatek.
<< O >>
"He still hasn't forgiven you, Vodo," the lady Krath commented as she and the Voice of the Brotherhood made their way through the thick of the trees. She was still actively pinging the area, hoping to find the three youngsters that had wandered off. Vodo closed his eyes for a moment, before re-opening them and glancing at his fellow Taldrya. "I know. I'm sure that he's aware I did what I had to do; even if he will never forgive me for it." Bubbles shook her head, slightly. It still boggled her own mind how Biask had slew his own apprentice. Way of the Sith of Old or not, he was still a mentor to more than one. More than three. He was a mentor to the newest and brightest of his home; and if they attempted to overthrow their superiors at such a lower level, they'd be crushed immediately. Taldryan would never grow; only shrink.
Something grabbed Bubbles' attention. She stopped, head shifting slightly to the left. Her eyes darted in forward, as she quickly processed the information being delivered to her by her adept senses. Vodo stopped as well, the Twi'lek quirking an eyebrow. "Sense something?" the Taldrya nodded her head, canting it to the side. "I feel one... no, two presences. They aren't native to the forest... and they'e faint. They might be the younglings we're after!" she bolted off in the direction her senses led her, feet pounding against the ground. Slightly grim that she had only felt the presence of two beings instead of the three that had been lost in the wild trees, Biask took off after her.
<< O >>
As their shuttle neared the planet's atmosphere, Shaz'air and Ashia discussed possibilities of what could of attacked the Dark Jedi. There were many fauna on the forest world; which was also largely unexplored - even by it's native people. It didn't exactly narrow down the possibilities as to what their hunter was. As the conversation became quieter and quieter, a dark thought entered the mind of the Pontifex. Something was not right with her former Apprentice; she could feel it. Reaching over towards the communication console on the wall, she buzzed the pilot. "Yes, m'lady?"
"Full speed. Get us planet-side now. Let us know as you near the Ektrosis temple... we no longer have time to wait while you perform the landing procedure," he voice was stern and edgy. "What's going on, Ashia?" asked Shaz'air, eyebrow raised. She did not reply, but the pure emotion that the Exarch could feel radiating off of her meant that it was of great importance.
“This is not the sollution.” Sena called out, keeping his breathing regular, while Jac was flying effortlessly overhead. “Logically the young ones are already dead. We should focus the creature’s attentions away from Vodo and Bubbles and then fall back until we can attack in greater number.”
“But they are already right in front of it, we may be too late to distract it. Then they’ll have to face it by themselves.”
A thought shot through Sena’s mind, so horrible he closed his eyes and forcefully willed it away.
Suddenly Anubis noticed that the Priest was moving much faster now, obviously aided by the Dark Side that was fuelled by Corvinus’ emotions.
Fear he felt, dread… For Bubbles and Vodo, oddly enough. His mind was racing with ten different battle scenario’s at a time, all of which seemed to end badly. The calculations were telling him that this was folly, it had no chance of success. But his heart, that was another matter entirely.
The bird overhead cawed down at him. He briefly looked up. “So, so what?”
It cawed again. “No! No, they won’t! We’ll help them…”
Caw… “Then I’ll die with them!” Sena bellowed out. Anubis looked back at him, and shook his head. “Hurry up, Sena. We need to_” “I’m coming!” the Priest snapped and focused all his thoughts on moving faster. He could see Jac flying off in a slightly different direction. He hoped he would see the bird again soon. If they were very lucky, he would go get some help.
The ship slowed as it approached the temple. “Open the pod bay doors.” Ashia gave the order over the comlink. A hiss filled their ears as the doors slowly started to lower. The tops of trees rushed beneath them.
“Ashia, what are you doing?” Shaz’air’s eyes went wide. His senses reached out and he could ’see’ the Nightsister as she gave him an evil grin before jumping from the ship.
The Keibatsu landed on her feet like a cat, her warcoat falling into place behind her a moment before she moved off into the forest at a fast pace. She reached out with her senses looking for her former student as she quicken her stride.
Shaz’air stared after her from the ship; she never ceased to amaze him. That jump had to have been 30 kilometers at least. Though he was certain he could have managed the same jump, the trees were another concern for the Miraluka.
The ship began its landing sequence and the Exarch bailed once it had descended below the tree line; taking off after his Aedile.
Bubbles stopped abruptly; then sent out a thin tendril, searching again for the presence she had picked up earlier. Vodo stopped next to her and went still.
“That presence is familiar.” He sniffed the air as if tasting it. Bubbles looked questioningly at him just as a figure emerged from the edge of the treeline.
“It’s Ashia!” Bubbles smiled as her Aedile moved towards them. Shaz’air entered into view a few moments later.
“Where’s Anubis?” The Pontifex didn’t waste time on pleasantries.
“With Sena. They're headed…” Bubbles started.
“…back this way.” Ashia interrupted her as Jac flew into view. The bird announced his arrival with a trumpeted cawing that echoed off the trees.
He came to rest on the Aedile’s shoulder, letting out a loud shriek of greeting.
Ashia’s ability with animals and beasts was well known. Jac wasn’t comfortable with just anyone, for instance. It comforted Sena to know if anything should ever happen to him, that Jac would have someone the bird trusted.
“Where’s Sena?” Bubbles looked back the direction the bird had flown. Jac was never far from him. A concerned look crossed her visage for a moment but was quickly removed and a loud crash came from the opposite direction, followed by a dark growl that reverberated throughout the whole area.
All of them turned suddenly as a large mammoth of a creature came crashing through the trees. It let out a piercing scream as charged towards them; snarling viciously.
Jac flew off instantly, squawking his dislike of the beast and headed for the safety of the trees.
Ashia and Shaz’air flew into action at the same time, both igniting their sabers and moving away from each other to surround the creature. Bubbles and Vodo followed suit. The Terentatek focused on Bubbles as she tried to maneuver out of its path. A snort erupted from the creature as it reached for her with mammoth claws. The Krath leapt out of its way, spinning on her heal and bringing her saber around; the amethyst blade singing as she moved to cut at one of its legs.
The animal leapt at the last minute; jumping just out of the blades reach and landed with a dull thud before whirling about to attack again.
Ashia reached out to touch the beast’s mind and try to take control of it. The Terentatek bristled a moment before shaking its head. It changed its focus to the Nightsister and barred its teeth at her.
At that moment Anubis and Lokasena burst forth through the undergrowth, directly behind the foul beast, sabers drawn. They spread out as they hit the clearing. Anubis moved to Ashia and Sena made his way to Bubbles. He scanned her with his eyes and found no injuries. Relieved by this he threw a quick look at Vodo. The Twi’lek seemed fine as well. Odly, Corvinus was glad he was unharmed as well.
The group of Dark Jedi spread out so they surrounded the animal. This was often when it would be at its most dangerous. All it’s aggression was focused on Ashia again and they all knew it was about to charge. Blinded by adrenaline and loyalty for Taldryan, Lokasena stormed forward. He jumped and slashed vertically down at the Tarentatek’s back. The hulking monstrosity roared and turned around, it’s swinging claws caught the Priest, lifting him from the forest floor and throwing him against a tree.
He landed on the ground and was pretty dazed for a moment. He got to his knees and saw the others already engaging the creature in fierce combat. Luckily none of its claws had drawn blood but his ribs had felt better. He focused a few seconds to visualize covering the sharp spires with cooling water. The pain subsided quickly.
He could see his comrades were handling the situation well, but a verse about the Priest who got knocked down at the start of the battle, would ruin the song of victory that would be written after this was all over.
He called up the anger he had felt before, he let it stream to his hands and reach out to a sharp branch that was laying on the ground. Taking a few seconds to try and predict the creature’s movements, he flung the branch at it. More through luck than skill the wooded projectile hit the Tarentatek in its left eye.
This gave the rest of the group ample opportunity to overcome the brute. Ashia delivered the deathblow to its neck, and suddenly all was quiet.
The Taldryans took their time to recover. None were seriously injured, apart from a torn tunic and scratch here and there.
After proper greetings had been exchanged, Sena walked up to the lifeless bulk and pulled out his scanner. The others were vaguely looking over to him as they were discussing the best way to proceed. Then, Vodo was a frown grow on Sena’s face.
“What’s the malfunction, Priest?” he called out.
Corvinus looked up at him. “We have a problem!”
“Relax. The thing’s dead, right?”
“I am not detecting any DNA signatures from our missing people. This thing didn’t attack them.”
`Anubis stepped up. “Then what the hell did?”