A New Beginning
Octavia was about to die and she knew it, amongst the shifting sands of the wild desert that stretched for thousands of miles across the surface of Kapsina. She had lost count of the hours trudging across the arid plains, where heavy heat hazes hung over the horizon. Abandoning her heavy survival pack and even simple weapons such as a standard issue pistol. Stripped down to nothing more than form fitting military uniform, which even now under the baleful sun was drenched with her sweat.
As her head began to swim with false visions, no doubt a result of extreme dehydration she could not help but wonder if this had been an elaborate trap to ensure her death. Maybe it was how they disposed of all those that lacked the determination and strength in the force to join the hallowed ranks of the Dark Jedi. Before setting out, brimming with pride and confidence she had been promised elevation, to be granted the honour of a Master. To complete her training and learn secrets that dare not be spoken but only whispered at in the shadows. Even as she entered the barren desert she had imagined herself leading a crusade in the galactic core, purging her enemies and becoming a power to be feared. But with each passing mile, and the unrelenting sun forever beating down on her, such dellusions soon evaporated, as did the water in her body.
As she cleared another ridge in the unforgiving desert hoping to see a sign of her reward or even salvation she was met with more of the same. Doubt started to eat at her, could she be walking in circles? Pushing such foolish thoughts from her mind she continued to stagger forward, she still had some scrap of pride left and would not yield to the desert, not yet. Pity her legs did not share her faith, collapsing from exhaustion she found herself sitting on the sand, her head an explosion of pain from a thumping headache.
Yanking at her hipflask she threw her head back hoping to ease her swollen tongue, her reward was just a precious few drops of water. She would shed tears, if she had any moisture left to spare. Uttering a raspy curse she flung her flask. It landed awkwardly, sliding to a halt at a pair of perfectly polished black combat boots.
Shielding her eyes from the sun with one arm she tried to identify the mysterious figure that shimmered slightly before her. A man, dressed all in cliched black regarded her with a raised eyebrow. The eyes were masked behind some sort of visor, glasses perhaps of sapphire blue. Sporting skin, paler than the desert and an absurdly trimmed beard.
"I was wondering when you would honor me with your presence." it lacked sincereity and under normal circumtances she would have hurled abuse, but she felt too weak to do much of anything but look on.
He produced a small datapad which he seemed to pay particular attention. Octavia noted with some bitterness how unconcerned he was with the stifling heat, indeed not one bead of sweat formed on his brow.
"Says here you have great potential, one of the more promising students from the Shadow Academy." His face rose to regard her disheveled form. Her hair a wirey mess, dark patches under her arms and chest.
"Hmm...no supplies, no means to defend yourself?" It was a question that the man was not seeking an answer for.
"W...wh...who are you?" she finally managed, her voice barely a whisper.
"Me? I am Godo Nurok, Quaestor of House Exar Kun. But you may call me your Master."
Octavia looked up at the man who apparently had no regard for her health of safety with wide eyes. It was hard for her to believe that her Quaestor for her own house was her Master. She had never met hm, but she had heard he was a tough, ruthless man. Closing her eyes to the blinding light reflecting off the sand she tried to speak but could only cough came forth. Sighing deeply she stood on shaking legs, only for them to colapse from dehydration.
"Master?" She whispered, still slightly confused. "What was all of this for? Other that to kill me?"
Not sure she should have said that she mentally slapped herself. However, she could blame it on dehydraton.Gods, if her husband knew what was happening her new Master would be in trouble. Sighing deeply she stood one more time, and finally getting it, she was able to balance on her shaking legs and she tried to serch for her Master'sn eyes behind his glasses but failed.
"Master Godo" She whispered softly " It is a pleasure to be your student."
"You think me cruel? Enjoying a joke at your expense?" the Quaestor uttered with barely concealed contempt.
"Then tell me, my student. Do you imagine your enemies more forgiving? Perhaps they would spare a Dark Jedi, maybe even provide you with a warm meal and a soft bed?" sarcasm dripping with every word.
For a moment despite death whispering in her ear she felt a surge of anger, hatred towards this man. Who was he to play god, to toy with her life like this. Instinctively her hands formed fists, willing herself forward she some how kept her balance, the ringing in her ears was almost defeaning, her vision swimming but she kept going. Then, once within striking distant she drew back her clenched hand and threw a punch. It batted pathetically against his armoured chest, a great heaving mesh of alloy and plate. The effort threw her off balance and into his arms.
"Despite all of it, the endless walk, the baking heat and dehydration you still fight." he lowered her to the ground, wrenching off his own hip flask he dropped it at her feet.
"Many come out here, to learn how to wield the force. Most fail however, most haunt this very desert." his arms opened wide to take in the expansive terrain.
Octavia reached for the flask and wrestled the cap off, half gone mad through the heat she drunk the precious water greedily, half missed her mouth, soaking her head and dribbling down her neck and onto her sweat drenched top. She felt dizzy and sick. Sitting forwards she let her arms perch on her knees, the flask hanging loosely in one hand, for a moment she let her head fall low, letting her vision correct itself.
After a moment she lifted her gaze once more, Godo was standing over her with a look of triumph. Looking about her she suddenly noticed something just beneath the wind swept desert, it took a moment for eyes to fully register what it was. There were bodies, one, two, a dozen maybe more. All were in various stages of decay, the sand acting as a preservative and turning the flesh to dark brown cracked parchment, eyes gone from the eyesockets and hair still about the skull in ragged clumps.
"Was it all just a test?" the power beginning to return to her still wavering voice.
"Life is all about trials, but most we can ill afford to lose."
"I don't fail my trails. Failure is not an option, Master Godo"
Octavia looked from her Master to her surroundings, and was slightly disgusted,however she couldn't tell if it was because she had walked over all the dead bodies, or if it was because they all had failed in what they were trying to do. Shaking her head she felt weak, but wasn't sure what to do. Should they be leaving? She honestly didn't want to be there anymore, and the closest dead body next to her looked like it was reaching for her, which was creeping her out.
Standing on shaky legs, the short brunette ran a hand through her hair and sighed. Her Hazel eyes scanned the taller man and prayed hopefully she wasn't standing on some poor soul's body.
"Could we possibly leave?"
Feeling the ground crunch beneath her feet she felt the urge to vomit, but held it so she didn't look weak.Closing her eyes, she took a deep breathe and let it out, as she was trying to calm herself.
"please, can we leave?"
Her discomfort was clearly visible, she was rapidly turning pale and the expression she pulled with every miss placed step delighted Godo.
"I am sorry, this desolate place is proving a little too unsettling?" sarcasm clearly evident.
This only angered her, but that pleased him. It meant she had spirit, strong enough to survive the ravaging influences of the dark side and more importantly learn. There was impatience and a mind that could be swayed should the need arise. He pushed aside such thoughts however and instead wondered how best to deal with her now, amongst the corpse ridden desert. Clearly decay and dessolation were something she held a certain sense of fear and loathing for. But she had, he confessed, already accomplished a lot. Ill prepared though she was for the journey, she had triumphed and managed to get here. It would therefore be a pity to waste such potential.
"Very well." he said finally. "Follow but keep your tongue still, and I may yet impart some modicum of knowledge into your eager mind."
He made great strides, it seemed despite his bulk and height made little impression on the soft sand, where as Octavia, despite her best efforts seemed to sink knee deep in the stuff. Her legs already tired and hurting, and did little to soften her growing disquiet. Had this all been some sick and twisted joke? After a trek across the bleached landscape they eventually came across a dried up lake. It had long since lost water and was now cracked, baked to oblivion. Despite this, there were yet signs of life, a tent made up of hides, no doubt from the local wildlife was securely moored to the now heat blasted lake.
"Tonight we rest here, tomorrow we shall set off to start your trials." he said, matter of factly.
For a moment it took her heat addled mind to comprehend exactly what was going on.
"You expect me to sleep in there, with you? Here? Now?" she blurted out.
Godo stopped, and stroked his small beard for a moment as though contemplating a great mystery. "Yes, I can see your point, not really fitting for me to push this upon you my student."
At that he went inside the tent, after a few moments he returned holding a small bundle of blankets which he casually tossed to the ground. A small cloud of dust shot up from the sudden impact. "There you are my student, I would strongly recommend you wrap up very warm, I understand the temperatures can plummit in the night."
At that he turned and moved back inside the tent, the flaps falling and obscuring the entrance. For a moment she just stood there, stunned at what had happened. The sun was dipping low now and already the air started to feel icy. By the time night fell it was already bitterly cold, with each gentle breath she made, a small white cloud emerged. She was shaking now, the memories of the blazing heat nothing more than a wonderful dream. The blankets smelt terrible and did little against the biting wind. She tried to sleep, but the cold was now seeping into her flesh, her bones making everything feel numb.
Octavia shivered in her sleeping bag and looked up at the stars in the sky above her. She suddenly missed her home, and her bed. However, The brunette was no stranger to spending nights in a desert, her family had gone camping many times in the deserts of planets, the only difference here was that her huge family wasn't here, and she was on a planet she didn't know.Standing, she sighed and wiggled out of her sleeping bag. She knew that she could cut down the wind if she slept against the wall of tent, and that's exactly what she did.putting her sleeping bag down, she wiggled back into her sleeping bag. Please with herself she smiled and now that she could keep a little warmer, she fell asleep quickly.
Waking up to a rumble in her tummy, and the snoring coming from the tent Octavia stood and rubbed her eyes. Between being grime from the sand, and dirty from the trek she made yesterday she felt horrible. She raked a dirty hand through her hair and got to rolling up her sleeping bag and sneaked inside the tent to look for something to do and was surprised to see what this small looking tent had inside.
Godo was sleeping on a cot to the left of the door.She could tell her was dreaming due to the mumbling and the slight smirk on his face, and made a mental note of it.She knew that the chances of her seeing a smile on his face were going to be slim to none. Sighing quietly her eyes then landed on the small kitchenette that the tent was outfitted with.
Practically skipping over to the small cooking area she found some eggs, bread and bacon and began to quietly cook. With a smile on her face she began to hum to herself, glad for the relief that her favorite hobby would bring her; even if only the relif lasted a little bit.
The smell of the eggs and bacon sizzling quietly away helped invigerate her, it had not been the easiest of nights but at least now she could get some food. Her limbs felt leaden, the days excursion through the desert had very nearly cost her dearly, only to find this cruel man waiting for her. Before she could think any further on the matter the food was ready, sandwiching the bacon and egg between thick chunks of bread she greedily devoured it. Half choking on the mouthful she forced it down, egg yolk dribbled down her chin.
"So, it seems my student has taken to stealing into my tent for food? A scavanger of the desert."
In her eagerness to eat she had completely forgotten about Godo. He stood over her with an expression of distain. Fear gripped her stomache as she prepared for what would be an unpleasent punishment. Instead, he nodded a brief smile spreading across his thin and drawn lips.
"You never know when your going to eat next. In war you have to take what you can whilst it is available." he said
A sense of relief washed over her, she had heard many dark tales about Godo. How people had disappeared and some found dead. Quite what the connection was none knew, but few dared to ask. Wiping away the food from her mouth she forced herself to stand and bow. Hate simmering beneath the surface she managed a smile.
"Master, what must I do?"
Without answering her query he strode past her and out into the blinding light of the wild desert. For a moment she just stood there puzzled, but eventually opted to follow her Master outside. He stood barely a few meters away, gazing up at the pale blue sky, shielding his sapphire blue shades with one gloved arm. Not a cloud could be seen for miles and though still early in the morning, the heat was already intense.
"Tell me, my promising student. How long have you survived in such an environment as this without water?"
Wiping the crumbs from her face she thought quickly and smiled a bit. Her father, the complete bumble head that he was, had packed everything except for the water. Remembering how they stumbled through the sand and then the forest made her shake her head.That was, until a sound of her Master clearing his throat dragged her from her happy thoughts. Raking her hand through her hair she quickly decided it needed to be up and out of the way she sighed and answered hs question.
"About two days, I was camping with my father and he packed everything but the water... I found us a spring two days later. "
Finally getting her hair up into a bun she looked around the bright white ocean of sand that they were in the middle of and sighed. It amazed her at the peace she felt considering every time she walked she felt the crunch of bones breaking beneath her feet, and that death wasn't very far from where she was standing right now.
Wishing she had her pack with her so she could use her holorecorder, change her clothes and possibly somehow, become less dirty.Sighing she stuck her hands in her pockets and rocked back and forth on her heals.
"Should I go Fetch some for you? "
Not being able to hold back the sarcasm she sighed and prayed to the heavens that Godo wouldn't make her walk another bazillion miles to get them water.
Godo let off a nasty grin, a brief flash of triumph visible on his normally stoney features. Octavia felt a surge of fear but also curiosity. Had she said something funny? Puzzled she waited patiently hoping for some sort of clue or answer, after what seemed like an age he spoke.
"There is a spring, walking distance too. But, well...not it doesn't matter, I shouldn't mention it." he gave a dismissive wave, but it was clearly theatrical. As though playing to some unseen audiance.
"Okay" she said with a tone that suggested the speaker was borderline insane.
He produced a simple datapad, its screen was illuminated and showed a simple map. It was clear from the symbols and graphics where their simple camp was located. Also, clearly marked was a location of what looked like an Oasis. It was vast, large enough to house a small lake. There seemed little or no obstacles but was clearly not on the regular water routes for pathfinders and other scouts for the Plagueis military.
"Well?" he said, with an air of impatience.
Bowing slightly she left at once, but something was bothering her. The route would take little more than an hour at a brisk pace, easily achieveable. There was more to this, she felt the force tugging at her, urging her to be cautious. A trap she finally concluded. Strapping on her rucksack and check her pistol, ramming it into her holster she set off across the blind white deserts to the Oasis.
Octavia walked off in silence. It worried her that he smiled so wickedly at her. He was defiantly a strange man, and while that didn't bother her, she had a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach that he was planing something to test her. Stopping for a second she closed her eyes to center herself, However, t wasn't working to well. The what if's floating around in her mind were a little too loud to ignore, but she knew she had to go and do this. Whatever it was couldn't be half as bad as the things she had encountered in her short 20 years.
Trudging along in the desert she cringed at the sound of bones cracking under her weight. To be honest, it made her wonder why this place was so horrible that others died here. In reality, the area wasn't bad, and it wasn't that harsh. The brunette had been in worse places, andin worse situations. Shrugging it of her data pad beeped at her. She glanced at it quickly and turned left and smiled. It was amazing to her that suck a lush tropical area was stuck in the middle of a desert.
Marking her coridnates she quickly sent them to her Master before continuing on. Feeling triumphant, she pushed her bangs out of her face she continued to walk in the heat, however that gut feeling wasn't going away. It was in fact it was getting worse. Using her powers she knew something was going to run a muck. However, she kept going.She knew it would look bad if she turned back now.
The sun continued to blaze down on her, sweat was flowing freely but her training thus far had allowed her to recover quickly from the previous days trek in the unrelenting desert. Taking a generous swig from her hip flask she allowed herself a chance to observe her surroundings. The barren desert stretched out for miles in all directions, the heat shimmering off the surface cast a myriad of illusions. Scattered about the floor were the various bones and corpses of many strange creatures, some she noted with a lurch in her stomache were human.
Pressing on she finally cleared a ridge offering a commanding view of the oasis. It was a true little paradise, a large body of water surrounded by gentley swaying trees, bright green dagger shaped leaves. A sense of triumph washed over her as she cautiously made her way down to the lapping shores of the oasis.
When she finally reached the oasis she downed the last remaining water in her flask, kneeling down she quickly refilled her flask and screwed the cap back on tightly. Producing her datapad she updated the co-ordinates. Finding an especially large tree she took refuge in the shade. Sitting there, away from scathing glare of the sun she took stock of her surroundings. Something struck her as odd. The oasis was truly a jewl, the various trees and their bright green leaves, bushes and other green planet life dominated the landscape. And yet there was no sign of other life, no small animals, buzzing insects, nothing.
Her foot caught something, half burried in the enriched soil. A hand, though it looked more like a dried branch. Her heart started to thump hard in her chest, a rising feeling of dread. Standing cautiously she scanned the floor. There were bodies everywhere, dry husks devoid of any moisture. Spinning around trying to look for some answers she spotted something that instilled terror in her.
A man, about her age was sitting under a nearby tree much like she had been doing. She recognised the man, another potential studying to be a dark jedi like her. He was wearing his desert fatigues, but it was not the man that instilled her with such fear. wrapped around his body was what appeared to be a large thick root holding him in place. And in several places smaller roots pierced his flesh and even now were writhing underneath his flesh.
She watched as the mans head slowly lifted to observer the newcomer, the eyes however were gone, empty sightless sockets watched her. The mouth hung open, slack jawed as though the bone had gone, a noise, perhaps a voice came out. It sounded unnatural as though it didn't belong. "Join usssssssssssss" it hissed.