Mischief and Trickery
(Ask for invite)
The howling breeze of night fell upon the Togruta's lavender skin. While she didn't mind the elements, she couldn't supress the shiver that ran down her spine as the rushing gale reached out with cold, long fingers. The tighly bound leather wraps making up her minimalist, but utilitarian garment swayed in the breeze, yet remained clung to her delicate flesh. The shadows began to stretch, creeping closer as Yhi disappeared beyond the horizon. Despite their proximity to the equator, the powerful winds carried across the Bythic Ocean made the nights damp and cold. Huddling beside the fire, A'lora wrapped herself in a thick fur cloak, adorned around the nape with teeth and claws of various sizes and shapes.
It was two years since the Brotherhood's fleets overwhelmed Harakoa, commonly known as New Tython. A'lora hadn't been here to witness the disaster that befell its people, nor had she arrived in time to put an end to the series of disasters before they came to pass. Now, New Tython was plunged into a war of its own making.
She cursed herself for her inaction; her visions were clear, yet she chose to remain on Felucia until the day she lost everything she held dear. If only I had arrived sooner. My foolishness has brought the deaths of innocents.
With the forming of the Thuron Monarchy, led by the self-proclaimed king of New Tython, Cy Thuron ruling over Ohyhyee with an iron fist the world was plunged into chaos. The mad king's schemes have succeeded, ever since he had gained support from the dissident group, the New Dawn. Since then, he has rapidly built up his influence with the Jedi's disappearance into Sith Space to wage war against the Brotherhood's crusade and the One Sith menace. Eventually, his violent takeover was aided with the support of a mercenary group, hired by Cy Thuron and his Master. Only recently, the Jedi of Odan-Urr have begun to fight back, having procured a new wealth of resources from their war. Moving away from their staging site on the world Haven, the Jedi have dealt a crushing blow againt the mad king's attempt to enslave and exterminate the Harakoan population in the destruction of Purity Rock. Now, A'lora has led a diplomatic group with one purpose in mind: to gain the support of Harakoan tribes in previously unexplored territory. However, despite the long journey towards the planet's equator, no Harakoan tribes have been spotted, yet an unfamiliar presence can be felt lurking on their borders.
Central to the mission's attempt at negotiations with the Harakoan tribes, Sanarai Iridana is the diplomatic muscle behind the entire operation. Her sudden appearance had sparked the Aedile's interest almost immediately, much to the disdain of the Togruta's loyal Melewati entourage, comprised entirely of marksmen familiar with the lands.
Her thoughts were cut short as Sanarai entered the tent, which failed to keep out the worst of the storm. Pulling a similarly heavy cloak from her shoulders, the Kiffar tossed it soaking beside the small fire. While still regarded as a "newcomer" by some, most knew of the former Sith's importance to the current mission, and none of the Kotahitanga-Unity Defense Force dared to question her presence. She wasn't a stranger to politics; the ability to sway and influence the minds of others came naturally to her, and A'lora knew beyond a doubt that these were the qualities of a Consular. Even so, her talent in peering into another's being to find weakness was lost on the Togruta that sat huddled on the blankets spread out before the inferno. Usually, she found the other woman to be meditating on such a night as this.
"Is there something you need, Iridana?" The Togruta asked, shaking off the lingering thoughts of the past.
Sanarai, taken aback by the question felt her cheeks flush. She wasn't expecting the Councillor to notice the intrusion, having been seemingly and completely lost in her own thoughts only moments before. "I was actually retiring for the night. The scouts have returned from their patrol."
A'lora nodded. She had lost track of time in her reflections, seemingly having lost the count of several hours. "Very well," She began, her voice significantly warmer than it had been seconds ago, "Get some rest. I should see everyone ready to scout for local Harakoan tribes at dawn."
What Sanarai had told her Aedile wasn't exactly a lie, just simply not the entire truth. She hardly slept, not since being captured and the torture that had followed; every time she closed her eyes now she saw her infant son, and to keep herself functioning despite the lack of sleep she had to lean heavily on the Force. Retiring for the night simply meant that she was going to meditate, for getting any modicum of rest was now simply beyond her.
Since joining Odan-Urr she had been met with a mixture of mistrust and warmth, at least as far as the House Summit was concerned. The very fact that she had kept her background a secret and that she had stayed for a small amount of time in a dark side Clan made nearly everyone wary of her, but she paid it no mind. The only thing she placed any importance on was the current mission and nothing else could detract from that. With A'lora's words echoing in her ears, the Kiffar settled into her own tent but didn't bother zipping it up against the storm raging outside, using the cold, splattering rain as yet another means to defy her exhaustion. At least the team would get an early start and her appearence in the command tent well before dawn wouldn't be considered "odd" by those in the group who disliked the new Odanite.
She sighed as the wind swept the rain into her tent, gazing out at the barely-visible landscape with a distracted glaze to her mismatched eyes. What was she even doing here? What was her point, her purpose? While her Aedile seemed to have faith in her so-called diplomatic abilities Sanarai herself wasn't entirely sure she could actually be of any use. What information she had gathered in the short time before the team's departure to the wilderness of New Tython was far too scarce, with the pictures of the species being blurry and too little written on their habits, disposition, or anything else of relative importance. There wasn't much to go on, and Sanarai was not the kind of person to leap off a cliff without a bungee cord; she was, despite her Consular status, not much of a diplomat in her own opinion, though she could not deny her talent for mediation and knowing best how to manipulate emotions to soothe or otherwise calm a situation.
As the hours passed, the Kiffar managed to slip into a semi-relaxed state and the Force was eventually able to calm her, though she could not erase the nagging feeling that something was about to happen, which had been dogging her thoughts for days. Despite her close connection to the Force it would not tell her what exactly was the cause for this sensation, though she had a suspicion that it wanted her to go out and investigate, which went against her better judgement. The more she thought about it and the more she centered her focus on the possible disturbance the more restless Sanarai became, until she could sit still no longer. Summoning her lightsabre to her hand, she pushed aside the flap to her tent and stepped out into the rain, trudging through it all towards A'lora's tent. Pausing outside, she called out loud enough for the Togruta to hear and waited for a response.
"Aedile Kituri," she called, "I need to speak with you. Now, if you would, it's freezing."
As she shivered in the cold Sanarai regretted leaving her warm, though damp, cloak by the fire and decided that she would ignore politeness and enter A'lora's tent if she didn't answer soon. Why is it always me stuck outside? she thought ruefully. You know what, this is taking too long. Sorry, my friend, but a very cold and wet and concerned Kiffar is about to interrupt your sleep. With that thought bringing a slight smile to her face, Sanarai unzipped the opening to her leader's tent and stepped in, sighing silently in relief as she left the wind and rain behind her. Kneeling by A'lora's sleeping form, she reached out and nudged the other female with the Force.
I hope she isn't as jumpy as I am...and that she actually wakes up...
A'lora felt her senses flare; as a hunter, she had always been a light sleeper, able to wake at a moment's notice. However, Sanarai learned quickly enough of the Aedile's impossible reflexes as the other woman found her footing immediately, tearing a crude, knife-shaped talon from her makeshift 'bed,' comprised of only the thick cloak she had worn earlier. Not expecting one of the so-called 'Jedi' to react so violently to intusion, the Kiffar found the talon's tip inches from her throat before she could take a step backwards. Hissing as she moved, A'lora's eyes widened in realization once she recognized the Kiffar.
"I'm sorry." She said solemnly, turning away in embarrassment. Sanarai could see the Councillor's face turn several shades lighter and reddened than the usual lavender hue they took on. "I hadn't meant to lash out. Was there something you needed, Sanarai?"
In truth, there was several things she wanted answered - Had the Aedile sensed the disturbance? Where were they going?
Why was she here?
This last question she had asked herself every night since making contact with the Knights of Odan-Urr. She didn't know why she had abandoned the Dark Side's followers to their folly. Nor did she know why the Togruta had asked her to accompany her on this task specifically. Within a few days, she was thrown from the Brotherhood's infighting and a constant crusade, only to become another agent in a conflict that wasn't of her own doing. While she didn't know all of the details, it was evident that the Jedi sought to end the suffering of the people of New Tython. Everywhere she went, they didn't have enough supplies to help those whose houses were scorched, or family members imprisioned. Then, she remembered that the Jedi hadn't asked her to fight on their behalf. Perhaps that was why the Togruta insisted on the assignment of a 'diplomatic mission.'
Instead of these questions, she simply stated, "Your fire, for a start."
Several moments had passed. The Kiffar strugged against the damp, the fire providing relief, despite having shrunk low from the constant breeze through the tent. "I have felt a disturbance here. You hadn't sensed it?" She finally asked. The question lingered in her thoughts for hours. She didn't know what troubled her, or why. Out here, everything aside from the predators lurking around their camp, was rather peaceful.
"I have sensed an entity around the outskirts of our travels, yes." A'lora replied, looking past the annoyance of the other as she continued, "They have been following us since our venture south of the Honunom."
The secrecy of this welled up an anger inside of the Kiffar. For the entirety of this mission, they haven't seen a single Harakoan, aside from the one operating as their translator since the journey's beginning. Yet, this Togruta knew of their presence, and didn't feel the need to warn anyone? Before she could reach for a weapon, or harness the powers of the Dark Side, she calmed herself. Reminding herself that this was probably a test against her past teachings, she let her brow uncrease.
"Why haven't you informed any of us?" She asked, making an attempt to keep her annoyance at bay.
"Because we need to gain their trust." The Aedile responded, throwing another log onto the fire. The increased heat was welcomed by Sanarai, who wondered how the Aedile could sleep without articles of clothing more suited to colder weather. "The Harakoans won't speak to us if we still appear as a threat. I have also spoken to Whenua, who told me of the tribe's location. We should arrive in a few days time, provided the jungle doesn't hinder our arrival."
Slightly angered still, the Kiffar struggled to keep her hatred from showing. A public display of the Dark Side could only weaken their attempts to solve this peacefully, if the Harakoans were watching. "So, if we intend to broker a treaty with this tribe, why did you choose me?" She asked, sligghtly startling herself at having asked the question out loud.
Kituri laughed, much to Sanarai's irritation. "Is it enough that I have foreseen it, that you are the only one who can convince the Harakoans to come to us in our time of need?"
Sanarai frowned. She was ready to blurt out "No," but caught herself from saying such things. She heard the rumors of a powerful Seer among the Jedi of Odan-Urr, but thought it was a falsehood, given to her as a joke by some scout during her time in Naga Sadow. Since her arrival, she had seen a great many things she didn't think possible. Since their apparent destruction in the Tenth Great Jedi War at the hands of Grandmaster Muz Ashen, their numbers have more than doubled. Often, she was forced to question the weakness of the Sith to underestimate this particular foe to their beliefs.
"We'll make a Consular of you yet, Sanarai."
Sanarai could hardly believe what she was hearing, despite the Force telling her to trust A'lora without question. Anger welled within her heart at the knowledge that her Aedile had not only known about the disturbance but was just sitting here accepting it, without wanting to go investigate or even do the slightest thing to figure out what it was and what it wanted! She closed her eyes and breathed for a moment, taking in the smell of smoke from the fire and the still-lingering dampness of the rain to calm herself back into her relatively peaceful state. Not everyone would want to go out and disturb the natural order of things, as those who followed the dark side would and did, and not everyone was as anxious or as paranoid as Sanarai was herself; accepting that was taking longer than it should have.
The Jedi House operated differently than she had ever expected even in her wildest dreams, and even her former family hadn't prepared her for the strangeness that was the so-called 'Odan-Urr' way. She sighed and shook her head as if to dispel the mystery of it all, and focused back on A'lora with her mismatched eyes.
"How exactly are you going to 'make a Consular of me', if I might ask?"
The Togruta merely smiled, her head slightly tilted to the side, and regarded Sanarai with an unreadable expression. "I am not going to do anything," she said, "I won't have to. You will do that yourself, and with little guidance from me. It is destined, Jedi Iridana."
Sanarai looked down and away to avoid showing her disgust at such an idea. How she despised destiny for what it was: a means of control by the powers-that-be which was nigh impossible to fight against. She sighed, casting about in the Force for a way to dispute the Aedile, but of course found none.
"I don't think--" she began, but she got no further than that. A'lora placed a finger on her lips and flicked her eyes towards the opening of the tent, and Sanarai knew immediately what that meant. Something was there, and whatever it was bore them no good will.
Sanarai tilted her neck towards the intruder, before A'lora's thoughts entered her own.
Be still. They will not harm us, nor will they enter. The words filled Sanarai's thoughts. Without turning her head towards the intrusion, she could see a figure, peering back at her out of her periphial vision with a cold stare. Attempting to observe unseen, the figure looked at the both of them from behind the door's flap. All she could see in the darkness were the intruder's eyes, reflecting the light of the campfire between them.
"I have sensed their approach, they have been observing us. One of the Harakoan scouts." The Seer explained, not needing the Force to sense the presence of the intruder. Sanarai would have been astounded, if she had not been informed of the Jedi's natural ability to detect the movements in her surroundings by one of their Melewati guides. The montrals, hollowed protrusions atop the heads of Togruta gave the woman the ability to detect movement ultrasonically in their surroundings. Given that the tent was made of a thin, single-sided cloth, it was no wonder that she could sense the Harakoan's approach outside.
Unable to resist the urge to look directly at the tent's opening, Sanarai caught a fleeting glimpse of the Harakoan before it bolted into the safety of the jungle. A series of sharp "cracks" announced the native's retreat, as several of the camp's guards began shouting, racing towards the Aedile's tent in an effort to catch the intruder. By the time they had arrived, the intruder was gone.
"Jedi A'lora!" One of them shouted, opening the tent's flap with a mud-covered glove, "Have you been injured? Did you catch a look at the intruder?"
Raising a palm and standing to her full height, the Togruta radiated a calming aura, "I am quite fine. The intruder vanished into the jungle. I suspect this will not be the last we see of them."
"Very well, General." The Melewati marksman answered with a salute, returning to his patrols.
Sanarai looked perplexed, waiting for the guerilla fighter to move out of earshot before turning to face the Togruta, "What does this mean?" She asked.
"It means," A'lora began, a slight coldness rising in her voice, "That we are getting closer to the tribe. Sleep lightly, and be wary."
The days after that incident passed busily, yet slowly, in the way that people who are preparing for something will often experience the passage of time. Sanarai, for the most part, stuck to her own devices and spoke very little unless spoken to, and although A'lora saw very little of her rather mysterious companion, she could sense something changing in the Kiffar woman. It was almost as if the new Odanite were growing wilder by the moment, or as if the landscape of New Tython was absorbing her; indeed, the idea came to her in a moment of insight that Sanarai was becoming rather wild.
On the morning of the third day, Sanarai again came to her Aedile's tent at an ungodly early hour, and again startled the Togruta by standing over her without a word. Rather than being angry or even frightened, A'lora was instead concerned by the expression on the other Jedi's face. She had the look of someone who had seen something shocking, or gruesome, and immediately the Aedile was standing and throwing a heavy cloak about her shoulders.
"What is it?" she whispered. She kept one hand on her lightsabre as she spoke, her eyes scanning past the partially open tent flap for any sign of trouble.
"You need to see this," Sanarai said, her voice equally soft. She seemed quite agitated, shifting from one foot to the other and continuously glancing over her shoulder as if watching for something. Everything about her spoke of anxiety, and a small part of A'lora thought for just a moment that part of Jedi Iridana's nervousness stemmed from being inside of the tent.
She shook her head and backed up, saying, "no time. Just, come with me..."
The moment she stood again beneath the stars Sanarai relaxed somewhat, reaching out to briefly grasp the Togruta's arm and tug her into the trees. For a heartbeat she was nervous; who knew what Sanarai's intentions were, after all? But A'lora decided on a whim that such ideas were unfounded, as she was quite sure, based off the new Odanite's past, that Sanarai was quite capable of killing her Aedile in her sleep and as she hadn't done so yet, that she was trustworthy for the most part. So she allowed herself to be led through the trees only a short distance from the camp, but when Sanarai stopped and gestured to what she had discovered, A'lora wasn't sure what she was seeing.
What is this...?
Despite the Aedile's presence at her side, Sanarai's anxiety only swelled within her as they examined the source of the disturbance. Before the two females was a tangle of cables, and a heaping mess of twisted metal. It took the Jedi a few minutes to identify the object for what it was, or, more accurately, what it had once been. Their communications array was beyond repair, in this state. Its antennae were twisted, and snapped off in some places. Even worse, the Harakoans had utterly destroyed the power supply and control panel.
"It appears the native tribes have taken offense to our presence in their jungle. This situation is worse than I foreseen." A'lora said, shaking her head. Sanarai didn't need the Force to sense her Aedile's unease, for it was obvious the Togruta wasn't accustomed to being mislead by her foresight; the gift, she knew, had been the determining factor in countless efforts against the One Sith and Brotherhood threats.
"Nothing is ever predictable." Sanarai remarked. Though she meant no offense, the words sounded bitter as they left her lips. Her flaring senses had distracted her from conversation. Lowering a hand to rest on the pommel of her lightsaber, the Kiffar scanned her immediate surroundings. She tried to listen for signs of movement, but failed to hear anything aside from the leaves swaying in the wind and the chirping of insects. Blast it. This entire jungle seems to be conspiring against us.
Expecting the Togruta to respond, Sanarai was surprised to see a finger move to the other woman's grayish lips. Her magenta eyes snapped to the side, concentrating on the thick foliage to her left. A surprised yelp came from the bush as a blue-skinned figure was pulled by unseen hands into the small clearing. Scratching his dirty fingernails into the ground to keep himself from moving, seeking a root to latch onto. The man tried to scramble back into the jungle as soon as the invisible tendrils left him, but was stopped short as Sanarai's boot stepped in front of the Harakoan's cranial crest.
"Kunisaidia!" He yelled, turning onto his back to face the trespassers. His eyes seemed wild, darting in every direction.
"What is he saying?" Sanarai asked, examining the frightened figure at her feet. She almost felt sorry for the creature, who had begun to shake violently in panic.
"He's calling for help. Though I don't sense any movement." A'lora responded. Before either of them could turn around, Sanarai felt a sharp object scrape across the back of her neck. The sensation almost caused her to shiver against the cold stone of the spear tip.
"Mguu, haita!" Her attacker yelled. Similarly, A'lora was confronted with another of the Harakoans. Reaching for her lightsaber, she instead found a spear lodged in her exposed back, only deep enough to pierce the skin. The attack caught her off guard when she fell forward after another of them hit her with a club-shaped bone. Stepping forward to help, Sanarai felt the pain of a similar weapon against her skull before she collapsed into unconsciousness.
Where am I...? Bleary eyes opened, blinked several times, then opened again only to see the blurry outline of trees against the dim light of the moon. What happened? And where... Thick with fog, a head turned left and right but there was no sign of the Togruta. Where is A'lora? Bits and pieces of their capture slowly came back to her: the lump on the back of her head from where the natives had clubbed her began to throb, her wrists and ankles were rubbed raw from the rough twine used to bind them, and of course the absense of her lightsabre made her realize the gravity of her situation.
Question after question popped into her mind one after the other as she finally grew conscious enough to think. Who had taken her and her Aedile captive, and for what purpose? Was it an act of politics? Had the Dark Jedi, who had long been the adversaries of Odan-Urr's Jedi, used the Harakoan natives as a third party to capture herself and A'lora? That idea Sanarai dismissed at once. Not only was it implosable, but she was sure that the Force would have made it clear if the followers of darkness had a hand in this. Nor did she feel that it was a political act; more, it seemed that they were perhaps taken for trespassing, which made the most sense. But why now, when A'lora had not ever made mention of such a thing happening in the past?
Sanarai shook her head to clear it of the fog that still tried to bring her back to the realm of the unconscious, trying desperately to think of a plan. First, and most obvious, was find a way to rid herself of these bindings. She would be able to do more if she could be free, for she would be able to find her lightsabre and, hopefully, A'lora as well. Try as she might she could not free herself; her head swam when she moved too quickly, and she discovered that the harder she struggled the deeper her bindings cut into her wrists and soon blood soaked the twine, dripping steadily onto the floor. She had no choice but to sit and catch her breath, trying to will the Force to heal her so she could keep working towards freedom. Logically, she knew it would be better to rest and gather her strength, so reluctantly she did just that. A way to escape would come to her in time, or so she hoped.
I hope A'lora is better off than I am...
A'lora had no recollection of where they were. To her, the surrounding forests seemed different, as if a set of eyes were trained on them from every direction. Sanarai was beside her, similarly bound as their captors made a prodding gesture with his spear. This way. the gesture was easy enough to read, however the Togruta refused to move. Any tension placed on the cutting twine around her wrists agitated the flesh beneath. She repressed the urge to bite, or otherwise attack the Harakoans once they forced the Aedile and Sanarai to their feet.
"So, any idea where they're taking us?" Sanarai asked. While they were unconscious, the Harakoans must have transported them deeper into the jungle.
"No, but I see something ahead." The aedile responded. Between the trees, a longboat was inconspicuously hidden beneath the foliage. Two of the Harakoan natives were able to drag the light construction out further. A'lora could see where they were being taken, but the forest ahead of them smelled of seawater.
"They're taking us across the Bythic Ocean!" Sanarai gasped. Before they were able to take a step further, another Harakoan placed a heavy bag over their heads. The Bahari Islands, as they were called, was a place of secrecy and few knew of the channels leading into the Island's core.