An even longer time ago, in a galaxy just as far away...
"That's quite a view," Kelly paused as she reached the top of the ascent, taking a moment to observe her surroundings and take in the scenery. She kept her enjoyment brief, quickly returning to business by first checking the motion tracker to ensure that her immediate vicinity was clear of threats. When that was done, she raised her rifle, peering into the scope as she magnified and examined key positions atop both the temple and the mountainside, searching for signs of any camps or ambushes, paying special attention to strategic elevated areas where a fellow sniper may be perched.
"Morgist, if you find anything you want in there, it's yours," she spoke as she surveyed the area. "Least I could do for dragging you out here."
"Your presence is enough," the Sith replied with a smile. "But I appreciate it. This temple is remote, it may not yet be plundered, so we could come across something of value."
Kelly nodded, "I hope so. Laesa, does this resemble the place you saw in your vision at all?"
Laesa shook her head, "Besides looking like a large temple... this is not the place the saw. But the Force must have guided us here for a reason" she glanced up at the rapidly dimming night sky, then back over her shoulder, "We should make our way inside. Out in this dark valley does not feel like a good place to be come nightfall" "You may not want to be in such a rush to enter this place..." Morgist interjected, "...If it's remote location has left it free of plunders for all this time then the builders traps could be rife inside" Laesa turned to the Sith, "You fear walking the halls of your ancestors?" her tone was purely quizzical and surprised, not condescending or mocking in any form. Morgist stepped closer allowing his form to loom over her, "Perhaps you would be too if you knew the depths of depravity which likely await us in there. But do not mistake caution for fear". She shied away from her slightly, clearly taken aback by how insulted he appeared to have been by what she felt was an innocent query. Turning her attention to Kelly, "This is your mission, should we head straight inside or setup camp out here and wait for daylight to proceed?"
"Let's go in," Kelly decided. "We're too exposed out here and too far from the shuttle. If we get attacked our only retreat is into the temple, which'll certainly make for a much more rushed entrance than whatever we do now. Laesa wants to check it out so we're going in sooner or later, might as well do it on our own terms."
The approach down to the temple was shrouded in an eerie silence. Not even the birdsong and insects from the jungle were anywhere to be heard. The closer they drew to the ominous entrance, the more apparent the shroud of darkness over the temple became apparent; so powerful was the dark energy surrounding this temple that it hindered the ability of Laesa and Morgist to effectively sense any other presence, though not completely.
Walking the long hall that led from the entrance deep into the temple, the trio were soon confronted by a juncture. The hall had led to a small foyer with corridors leading off left and right.
The left corridor appeared dark and vastly overgrown while the right seemed to flicker with distant firelight - likely from sconces or braziers further in. Laesa looked between Kelly and Morgist, "Any thoughts?"
Kelly slung her sniper rifle over her back, the long-ranged blaster now of limited use within the confines of the temple interior. Reaching down to her waist, she drew the pistol on her hip, keeping it ready in her hands as they proceeded through the complex. She toggled the flashlight attachment on the sidearm, using it to illuminate their way, though she set it on the lowest setting as to not attract unwarranted attention.
She paused as they reached the foyer where the paths split, glancing cautiously to her right as she turned off the pistol's flashlight, "Looks like a fire ahead. Could be some sort of mechanism that's keeping it lit after all these years, but I think it's more likely that we're not alone. Either of you sense anything that way?"
Both Laesa and Morgist shook their heads, "The dark shroud over this whole place serves to mask any unknown presence. I agree it is unlikely that we are alone but can give no further indication sorry" Laesa replied solemnly as she clearly began to feel quite inadequate at always giving such begative reports.
Kelly nodded, "Don't worry, I know it can't be easy in a place like this. Just keep trying and it'll have to be enough. For now, let's head towards the fire. If someone's here, it's better if we find them first, in case they don't hesitate to shoot if they run into us." Sliding a hand down to her belt again, Kelly retrieved her vibroknife, gripping it backhand as she set her left arm horizontally in an L-shape in front of her with the blade pointing outward. She then placed her right wrist on top, using her left forearm as a support for the hand wielding the pistol, keeping it steady should she need to fire. Both close and medium ranged weapons now at the ready, Kelly proceeded slowly into the passageway that led to the distant flickering...
Forging ahead along the vaguely illuminated corridor, Laesa walked in between Kelly and Morgist - all with weapons drawn and prone as they hedged forwards cautiously - she found the musty smell and thick dust filling the air were so intense that it effected her ability to breath, though the rising tension did not help this either. The corridor wound around and up before growing more illuminated, but eventually straightened out as it appeared to lead into a large chamber ahead; the wind howled around and through the ruins with eerie echos that an untrained mind could easily mistake for the pained howling of Force ghosts. UC3-Temple-9.jpg Nearing the end of the long corridor, Laesa appeared to slow through trepidation, "Wait..." she ushered to Kelly in a hushed tone, "... That presence - the one that has been watching us since we landed - I feel it stronger than ever now, we must be close" As she spoke, she turned with an uneasy feeling to glance behind them towards the shadowy corridor left in their wake - Morgist and Kelly following suit - though nothing was to be seen. As the three stood surveying the path behind them and anticipating their followers reveal, the most subtle of patting noises came from the direction they had been heading in - like the sound of bare feet gently padding against the cold and damp stone floor, only it was not footsteps but a single sound. Turning in unison, the trio was greeted by the sight of a hooded figure who stood right before them with a bowcaster aimed in their direction. The figure was clearly female and notably smaller in build than Laesa even, though she did not appear phased by this.
Even in the dim light of the corridor where they stood, the flickering red firelight from the overhead braziers created a distinct glean in the strangers eyes; the strong contrast of a bright blue against the flickering reds and oranges. The eyes appeared cold and icy in this setting as they darted between each of the group; the weapon holding steady as they all remained prone in an uneasy and silent stand off. The piercing blue eyes of the hooded stranger - accentuated by the fact that the rest of her face was covered by a rebreather - were further emphasized by the sharp angle of her brow, which narrowed in focus as she brought her bowcaster to bear. Without word of warning, the stranger fired a single bolt through the middle of the group - narrowly flying between their heads. Turning away and in the direction of the shot, they were greeted by the sight of a large Nexu just metres away from them; a large blaster hole still smoldering in between it's eyes as the creature slumped to the floor at their feet. Looking slowly back towards the hooded stranger, they would see that she immediately holstered her weapon and moved towards them, not sharing a care for whether they opted to keep their weapons drawn or not. She passed though the group before any had fully got back to their feet yet, making a beeline for the dead Nexu. The stranger crouched before the large predators head and set her hands either sides of it's wide jaw, bowing her head as she mumbled something incoherently which appeared to be a prayer of some form. "Thank you" Laesa offered as she stood once more, following the strangers action of holstering her weapon as well. The hooded figure paused in mumbled prayer and visibly tensed before rising and moving close to Laesa - staring up into her big brown eyes with a angry frown, "Lle uma il- diola sina! re ume il- caela gurth- sina re!" (You do not thank this! She did not have to die this day!) her voice was as small and light as her build, though it carried a somewhat exotic accent, "Lle nelde... lle luma' imya sina palurin ve' y' rancor!" (You three... you trudge through this world like a rancor!). Laesa looked the stranger over, her eyes widening slightly with realization, "You're the one who's been following us since we landed!" to which the figure simply nodded slightly as she turned and walked back through the group and into the room beyond. Sensing no hostility from her, Laesa followed more of curiosity than anything else.
Once inside the large antechamber it was apparent that the stranger had made something of a camp here, with a modest fire burning in the centre of the ruined room and a smattering of supplies surrounding it. As she approached the fire, the stranger turned back to the approaching group, lowering her hood and mask to reveal luscious long mahogany coloured hair trailing halfway down her back... and a pair of steeply pointed ears. Her expression was still stern as she narrowed her eyes at the intruders, "Lle-aya il- be sinome." (You should not be here) she stated plainly as she studied the three.
Kelly lowered her weapon as they followed the stranger- if she wanted to kill them, she would've taken the advantage of surprise or seized her chance for an assault on both fronts when the Nexu was still there. She kept her weapons ready in hand, though, partly for the mysterious woman and partly for any more hostile animals that may dwell inside the temple. Upon arriving at the camp, Kelly glanced around, closely examining the home that had been made here in hopes of discerning more information on its inhabitant. She looked back to the stranger as the hood was lowered, staring at the moment at the pointed ears to figure out what species the alien belonged to, with no luck. Taking a step towards her, she attempted a more direct approach, "Do you speak Basic? Huttese?"
"Lle ba lambe uma il- ve' amin. Sina naa amin yamen'; Amin utue ta yeste'!" (Your simple tongue does not interest me. This is my place; I found it first!), she spat with a clear distaste at the mere suggestion of speaking Basic, as though doing such a thing would be to lower herself to an unacceptable standard. She gestured in a highly animated fashion as she spoke of the temple, "Engwar fara lle ve' y' loomi, manka lle kela; lle will gurtha. Esta sii', kela tul a yeste' me'a" (Death follows you like a shroud, if you leave; you will die. Rest now, leave come first light) she continued while settling herself in next to the fire; gesturing more kindly with open palms to the immediate area surrounding them. "I... think she just invited us to spend the night" Laesa suggested, tilting her head quizzically as she studied the alien girls every movement. Turning to address the girl and kneeling tentatively towards her, "You don't want us here, do you?". The stranger turned sharply to face Laesa; her head moving in a similar fashion only more animated - accentuated by a twist of her shoulders, "Lle uma il- be sinome. Sina naa amin yamen'!"(You do not belong here. This is my place!) she repeated, a clear degree of defensiveness in her voice. Yet it was all underwritten with a nurturing feeling, like her natural instinct was to protect those not as capable as she. "Even though we can not understand you... you can understand us?" Laesa probed further; showing an acute fascination with the girl's features and facial markings, "...and if I'm not mistaken; you want us to stay here with you, but leave soon?" The stranger studied Laesa for a long and drawn out moment before giving a firm nod and turning away to prepare her sleeping bag, leaving the others to take care of themselves.
"Well, we don't plan on going out into the night," Morgist joined in. "By here, do you mean in this camp, or in the temple?" Kelly inquired further. "We do have someone to find, or at least, we have to figure out why we've been led here to help us find who we're looking for." "And artifacts to search for," added Morgist. "I suppose we won't be allowed to do that, will we?"
"N'uma!" the girl snapped, half glancing back over her shoulder at Morgist's query. Her tone needed no translation to confirm that she was indeed forbidding them from taking anything. She let out a weary sigh and rolled over onto her side so she was facing Kelly, "Eller naa nothien sinome ten' lle. Sii' esta, saesa. Mani naa amin naa lle re'na lle naa nu amin malia" (There is nothing here for you. Now rest, please. What is mine is yours while you are under my protection). Her tone was softer now - almost sympathetic - as she addressed Kelly, giving a distinct impression that she felt sorry they had wasted their time coming here. But she remained firm in her resolution that either she would not allow them to proceed, or there was nothing for them to find; it was still unclear to the group which was the case. "Esta" (Rest) she repeated with a more gentle and encouraging tone as she again gestured towards the area surrounding the fire with a sweep of her hand.
"I guess we're staying here, then," Kelly nodded. "I'll keep first watch if anyone wants to sleep." Resting her rifle against the wall, Kelly moved to settle by the fire, holstering her pistol and dropping the knife casually to the floor as she lowered herself down as well. Sitting with her knees folded up, she gazed across the flames at their unexpected host, examining her features. "Are you some sort of guardian for this place?" she asked, "Or a visitor like we are?"
The stranger stared back towards Kelly through the flames, briefly diverting her gaze towards Laesa as she moved back and made herself comfortable to sleep; removing her supply pack and wedging it under the side of her head as a makeshift pillow before gently closing her eyes. Refocusing on Kelly, she reached out with one hand and swept a pile of dust across her front before tracing a slender fingertip through it. She traced out a series of circles which was clearly a representation of the Yavin system, pointing to the Fourth smaller circle around the large one representing the planet itself, "Sinome" (here) she stated with a wide sweeping gesture through the air to indicate the temple itself; her tone much softer now, almost sounding more like that of a teacher happily imparting knowledge. She gazed across at Kelly and sensing that she understood, continued to again wipe clear her dust etching on the floor before drawing a new series of circles. On this new - unrecognized - system, she pointed towards a single moon orbiting a larger planet, "Sephi" she again stated, placing an open palm on her chest to indicate herself. Studying Kelly as she appeared to watch and listen intently, the stranger continued to wipe the dust etching clear once more. This time tracing out a crude tribal representation of the swirling galaxy, clearly recognizable from it's resemblance to that seen on a standard galaxy map. Here she traced a small circle on one outer arm and another on the opposite side, but nearer the centre point. "Sephi" she repeated, pointing at the second circle before tracing a long sweeping line towards the first, "Sinome" she indicated towards the circle representing Yavin.
"I take it Sephi is the name of your homeworld? We're from the Empire, as you can probably tell," Kelly glanced to Morgist, his lightsaber and robes making him apparent as a Sith. "I'd ask why you're here, but I have a feeling you're either not going to answer or it'll be too difficult to explain. So, uhh...do you have a name?"
The stranger stared back at Kelly a long moment before replying simply, "Keelah" as she laid her head back down, continuing to watch the strange round-eared creature.
"I'm Kelly Haron," she replied, motioning towards Laesa. "I don't suppose you've seen anyone else like her anywhere? We're looking for someone that resembles her. Well, two people, one that'll help us with finding the other...you get the idea."
Keelah looked over at Laesa as Kelly motioned towards her - staring for a moment as she sensed that Laesa was not yet sleeping, and found herself admiring the composure of the strange looking alien; that she can rest peacefully yet remain aware of her surroundings and listen to the conversation. Looking back to Kelly, "lle ilya maa engwar a' amin. Nan' Il- ikotane yassen he` anta." (You all look strange to me. But none with her face) she said, shaking her head for emphasis of her point. Her gaze drifted towards Morgist who had settled further away from the group, "Il- ikotane engwar vee' ho, elea" (None so strange as him, though).
Kelly craned her neck to look at Morgist as well, "You ever met a Sith before? I've been told this moon has quite some history with them. They're Force users, ones that believe in using raw emotion as a source of power. A lot of people are afraid of the Sith, some of them really are dangerous, and most can be temperamental sometimes...but there's nothing wrong with a bit of emotion if you ask me."
"Si-ith" Keelah repeated awkwardly and in a quizzical tone as she pointed towards Morgist. With an affirmative nod from Kelly, Keelah's eyes widened with a brief moments realization before she leaped to her feet without warning. In the same sweeping motion as she got to her feet; Keelah threw off her rough robe and drew a single lightsaber from her hip where it had previously been obscured from view by the rags she wore. The blade activated as she brought it to bear in a reversed grip held across her front as she faced towards Morgist in a defensive stance. It's bright indigo blade flickering gently and illuminating the room and all it's occupants., while a powerful hum from the weapon indicated that was using a fairly unstable crystal, not like the refined blades carried by Jedi and certainly not as unstable or rough as those used by the Sith. This weapon sounded much more distinct, almost organic in nature. Having now revealed her true attire; Keelah stood in what appeared to be all black scouting gear. snugly fitted pants with armoured paneling incorporated into the fabric were capped by a belt full of leather pouches. Her minimalist vest also appeared to favour agility and range of movement over any kind of defense, though it was capped with more reinforced armoured shawl strapped snugly across the shoulders. Both hands appeared to be encased in simple wraps indicative of someone who used their hands a lot either in combat or rooting through ancient temples - or both.
However her empty off hand was encased from the fingers all the way up to the shoulder with a shiny metallic armouring which may appear at first glance somewhat similar to Mandalorian Iron, though the material looked far too thin and finely crafted to be from the heavy material.
"Amin il- lle Sana sina yamen'! ta naa amin, Amin utue ta yeste'!" (I will not let you retake this place! It is mine, I found it first!) she shouted at Morgist; clearly angered or distraught by the presence of a Sith. As Kelly watched, Laesa too had opened her eyes and looked up in surprise as Keelah now stood over them - glaring at Morgist. As the two stared up at her, they could see her raise her off hand slightly, turning it palm up as she summoned a ball of electrical energy that fizzed and crackled around her hand as she prepared to cast the bolt of Force lightning at Morgist should he make any wrong move. "Amin sinte nat' tyave n'e en' yamen' e' lle templa. Ikotane sina naa mani y' Sith ve'" (I knew something felt wrong in your presence. So this is what a Sith feels like) she continued as she glared across the room at the Sith. Laesa looked back to Kelly, "I think it's fair to say she knows something of the Sith... and from the looks of it, she senses something in Morgist that she does not... like..." she trailed off as her eyes widened with realization and she looked up to Keelah, "You are Force-sensitive... that's how you followed us so closely before; you were masking your presence in the shadows. But... how can you still feel our presence now? This place... it shrouds everything in confusion..." her tone clearly puzzled and inquisitive as she calmly pushed up to a more seated position, not wanting to alarm the jumpy alien. Keelah glanced down to Laesa, not turning her head any more than necessary as she remained prone and quickly turning her gaze back towards Morgist as she replied, "Lle quena en' i' templa. Ta naa beleg e' sina yamen', ten' sen ya sinta sut magh- ta..." (You speak of the life magic. It is strong in this place, for those who know how to use it...) allowing her words to hang in the air with a venomous tone as a clear warning to Morgist not to try anything. Laesa looked back to Kelly, "This... this is significant if I'm reading her right. Agent, the dark shroud hanging over this place has prevented either myself or Morgist from sensing anything since we arrived, as you know..." she turns an impressed gaze back up towards Keelah, "...if she can sense us through this shroud, she is something both unique and powerful... Agent, what if the Force has not guided us here to find some ancient artifact to help save your friend; what if it guided us here to find... her?"