An even longer time ago, in a galaxy just as far away...
Morgist rose fully to his feet, standing tall as he turned to Keelah. His hand made no move for the lightsaber at his waist, though his more tense posture made it evident that he was ready to call upon the power of the Force for combat if it came to that. He tried the diplomatic approach first, holding his hands out innocently. However, he took a step towards Keelah instead of away from her, and it was clear that he had no intention of backing down should the negotiation fail.
"I have no desire to destroy this place or turn it into my personal fortress," Morgist assured her. "My sole interest is in the artifacts and inscriptions that may reveal more about our past, and about the nature of the dark side. The Sith have a right to our secrets, do we not?"
Kelly, on the other hand, paid little heed to the tension between these two, merely observing them out of the corner of her eye to ensure they did not break into a fight as she focused on Laesa, "If you think she's the one that will help us find Beta, how exactly do we get her to help us in the first place? She doesn't seem too keen on working with us at the moment..."
Keelah continually threw Laesa and Kelly confused glances as they spoke of her, always keeping a wary eye on Morgist, "Sith karne sina yamen'; di'thang ta's gwaith ar' ume alta 'ksh-. Amin il- lava quenta taty-!" (Sith made this place; enslaved it's people and did great evil. I cannot allow history to repeat!) she declared in distinctly agitated voice. Seeing almost instantly that they strange aliens still could not comprehend her words, she let out a defeated sigh and turned her attention to Laesa, "Lle..." (You) "Lle rangwa" (You understand). She inclined her head towards a large leather satchel sat on the ground behind the remains of a collapsed pillar, "eller, e' amin assa" (There, in my satchel).
Laesa looked in the direction indicated and noticed the bag. Tentatively placing a hand across her own chest and inclining her gaze slightly as she looked to Laesa, she visually indicated she believed that Keelah wanted her to retrieve the bag and - presumably - it's contents. With a nod from the pointy eared alien, Laesa slowly moved across the small camp site and retrieved the satchel, setting it down by the fire for all to see as she pulled a ruined stone tablet from it.
Setting it carefully down against a rock with both hands, she sat back affording all a better view of it as she marveled at the ancient scripture, "This tablet... it speaks to the plight of the Massassi who built this place; enslaved by a Sith who promised them glory upon completion of their works only to betray their faith and..." she tilts her head as she appears confused by what she reads, "...and 'consumed their life-force', apparently" As Laesa read the ancient scripture out loud, Morgist stepped closer; partially lowering his guard as his attention was now drawn to more important matters than a jumpy small alien - who continued to stand prone and glare at him, "You can read this?" he asked of Laesa. "You can't?" she asked in kind, looking back over her shoulder as he approached. Morgist shook his head, "Not so precisely at least. This is the ancient language of the Sith; there are few scholars in the Empire who could translate it. How do you understand this?" Laesa looked back to the tablet briefly as though it may provide the answer, "I... don't know. It must be a part of my genetic memory..." she said, tilting her head once more as she continued to stare at the tablet, "I think I understand why she fears you, Morgist" she said looking up once more towards Keelah. Standing to better make her point, Laesa first pointed at Morgist, "He is not the same Sith" she said shaking her head. Then she pointed at that tablet, as Keelah watched her intently, "That Sith; long dead" she added, making her best facial impression of a dead person with a palm swept across closed eyes. The pointy eared alien studied Laesa intently as she attempted to communicate her message, seemingly accepting of the explanation - albeit reluctantly - as she lowered her blade slightly and relaxed her posture, "Ro uma il- tul a san- sina yamen'?" (He does not come to reclaim this place?) she asked of Laesa while looking towards Morgist. Her tone indicated she was seeking to clarify Laesa's reassurance, though the exact context of her query was unknown. Trusting her instincts, Laesa shook her head, "He is a friend" she reassured Keelah with a smile before turning her head backwards slightly towards Morgist, "Back. Down" to which the Sith simply huffed. Laesa turned fully to face him, "You need to reiterate to her that you are NOT her enemy; back... down!". After a moment's reluctant hesitation, the Sith did as requested; stepping back and relaxing his posture once more while making an over exaggerated welcoming gesture with his hands, "I still want the secrets of this place. They are my birthright" he insisted. "Secrets of this place...Found first..." Laesa mumbled under her breath as the truth hit her and she turned to Kelly, "Agent! I think I know what to do!" With no immediate objection from Kelly, Laesa stood and addressed Keelah once more, "You came here searching for ancient artifacts didn't you". Keelah stood and silently looked back to Laesa as she spoke, giving no affirmation of her assumption, but not denying it either, "You know this place is tainted by it's past - dangerous to pursue it's secrets. Come with us and we can show you more ancient secrets that are not tainted; that are safe to explore". Keelah slowly tilted her head; mirroring the action she saw of Laesa before, "Amin sal' uma il- dura lle" (I still do not trust you) she stated as she powered down her blade, "lye elea manka lle quena i' anwa" (We will see if you speak the truth). Wearing a satisfied smile, Laesa turned back to Kelly, "We may need to further utilize your holocron, Agent! As for this place, if she leaves with us that leaves it free for Morgist to either remain or return later and study."
"We're going to need his ride off this planet, but now that he knows the location of this temple, he can always come back later if he wants to explore more," Kelly replied. "You know what's in that holocron better than I do, Laesa. You think it's a good idea to let her in on its secrets?"
"I'm not even sure they would be secrets to her..." Laesa mused as she watched Keelah packing up her things ready for them to move out, "...But I think she is out to learn. As opposed to looting artifacts to sell on the black market I mean. And if that is the case, then the holocron may be the perfect source of understanding for her."
"It's worth a try," nodded Kelly as she picked up her vibroknife and slid it into its place on her belt. "If the holocron doesn't suffice, we can always find some more secrets elsewhere, maybe have ADIN steal something from Tython if it's possible." Walking over to where she placed her sniper rifle, she retrieved the weapon and checked it over before slinging it back. She drew her pistol again, holding it more casually now as she deemed betrayal to be unlikely, and ambush even likely so with powerful and alert allies around her. Upon seeing that everyone else was packed up, she gave the signal to head out and once again remained near the back of the group, a tactical decision based on the longer range of her primary weapons. Letting Keelah lead the way, Morgist followed close behind him, looking curiously at the pointy-eared alien who was so strong with the Force, "How long have you been in this temple? I presume having uncovered that tablet, this isn't your first day here."
Keelah paused briefly as she considered how to give her answer. turning to an adjacent wall she traced the outline of the Yavin star system; encircling it from a start point with her finger held on the glyph of the moon. Glancing briefly over her shoulder to ensure he was watching, she raised a single finger; indicating one cycle as a common understanding, to which Morgist nodded. Turning back to him she placed her hands together and drew them apart to her sides at shoulder height to indicate a longer stretch, then held up six finge
Morgist nodded, glancing around as they exited the temple into the darkness of Yavin IV's night, "Quite some time, then. You found nothing else of value here in that time?" "Are you sure it's safe to be out here?" Kelly inquired about a different topic. "You can sense trouble here despite the low visibility, right?"
"Gorga naa utua sina yamen'" (Danger always lurks this place) Keelah commented idly as she continued to move forward, glancing back over the opposite shoulder to Morgist, "Taurn naa seeien. Il- ilya merna ale' i' nat' en' sen n'ala" (Value is perception. Not everyone pines after the trinkets of their ancestors.) she stated in a flat tone, knowing full too well that he would not be able to understand.
Morgist shrugged and continued to walk through the jungle silently, figuring that the alien did not wish to speak with him. As the distance between them and the temple drew further and further and they descended down the stairs into the thick of the jungle, Kelly traded her pistol for the sniper rifle once again, occasionally stopping briefly to scan around with its scope's thermal vision. The trek to the shuttle was as uneventful as when they first traversed the area, their surroundings appearing almost devoid of movement except for their own. Kelly began to suspect that it was not something Keelah had done which scared away the beasts, but the natural darkness of the Sith temple, or perhaps something else just as sinister in the vicinity. Some time passed before they finally reached the location where their Imperial shuttle was parked. Stepping into the clearing, there was a sense of unease- the metal craft within the lush natural environment seemed out of place, unnatural, and that was suddenly the way they all felt. Morgist exchanged glances with Kelly before he picked up his pace, eager to get off this world as soon as possible. They entered from the rear of the shuttle, the closest entrance to where they approached. The lights automatically lit up as the ramp lowered, all usual procedure until the ventilation duct beside the door to the cockpit slid open and a spherical drone hovered out, positioning itself directly in the centre of the compartment as if the little machine was trying to block their way. Kelly aimed her rifle at it immediately and Morgist raised a hand to unleash a bolt of lightning, but both held their attack as a light shot down from the drone and a hologram began to form.
"Darth Æmeria!" Morgist took a step back, a look of genuine horror crossing his face, an expression he had not shown even when staring down the bowcaster of the alien traveler.
"I must say, I expected more of you," the hologram of the Dark Lord spoke as she walked up to them, the drone floating forward to facilitate the movement.
"I don't know what you think this is, my lord," replied Morgist, "but this isn't-"
"Not you, I know you're a bumbling fool." she waved him aside, her gaze set on Kelly. "You must be getting desperate to be so careless now. Or were you just having too much fun?"
"You're still using a hologram to talk to us," Kelly pointed out while moving straight through the hologram to the cockpit, typing on its consoles. "And I don't see any other Imperal ships nearby or in orbit, which means you couldn't get here in time."
Morgist shook his head, "If I try to go back to Dathomir she'll-"
He silenced himself like an obedient slave as his superior began to speak again, "I don't need to be here to kill you. This is a Sith world. You're in my domain now."
"I'm on an official mission sanctioned by Imperial Intelligence," Kelly shot back. "Interfering would-"
She was interrupted by violent shaking as something massive slammed into the shuttle, knocking her off her feet before she could finish launching the vessel. At the same time, the hologram disappeared, delivering one final line from the Sith Lord: "No one has to know."
The probe discharged a bolt of electricity at Morgist, which was easily absorbed by a Force barrier from the Sith's raised hand. Still halfway from getting up, Kelly drew her pistol while on one knee, firing a single shot clean through the drone. As the smoking remains fell to the ground, the shuttle was struck again with even greater force, sending the metal scrap skidding away as the craft slowly began to tip over...
"What the hell is that...?" Leasa blurted out as she fought to hold her balance and brace herself as the shuttle began to tip. Keelah - much more agile and practiced on her feet - need only set her stance accordingly to hold her balance as she drew her weapon once more, "Rauko!" (demon!) she declared as she pounced backwards down the boarding ramp in preparation to defend herself, with Laesa quickly following behind her.
Exiting the shuttle just before it rolled onto its side, they came face to face with the beast- a huge, four limbed creature with a crest of spikes atop its head which continued to run down its back. Its two-toed feet were clawed, but they were not as long as the three at the end of each of its large, muscled arms. Those familiar with Sith lore would easily identify the distinctive creature as a terentatek, a dark side monster whom some believe to have been a product of ancient Sith Alchemy. This was no ordinary terentatek, though- it was almost entirely covered in what appeared to be a layer of scales save for its face, fingers and toes, where a series of cybernetic modifications appear to have halted the growths. The terentatek pounded the ground and let out a loud roar before swiping its claws at the four humanoids. Jumping back and narrowly avoiding the strike, Morgist unleashed a stream of lightning, which the beast simply absorbed with its bare hand, just as easily as the Sith had done with the drone's jolt. It swung again, slamming Morgist out of the way before it charged the rest of the group, going straight for the centre and forcing them to roll or leap in opposite directions to split them apart.
Laesa could do nothing but scramble to the side with a Force-imbued leap. Keelah - having already set herself prone outside the shuttle - had a fraction more time to anticipate the move and so propelled herself skyward, raising her lightsaber high over her head as she flew through the air towards the beast. She lunged down to the back of it's head with a downward plunge of her lightsaber; however it did not sink into the creatures flesh as anticipated, but instead sparked right off it's scaly hide - throwing her balance and sending the girl tumbling to the ground at it's feet. The terentatek turned to stomp a foot on the vulnerable humanoid at it's feet, but was interrupted by Laesa who now stood off to one side from where she disembarked the toppling shuttle with both hands outstretched towards the creature and Keelah - projected a strong Force barrier around the girl. The creature's stomp could not break through the barrier and it stumbled backwards slightly with a might roar before slamming it's fists down hard on the barrier. They broke through it, but not before Keelah regained her composure and leaped clear - summoning her lightsaber to her waiting grasp as she landed at Laesa's side, "i' onna naa il- hrt a' amin hyanda!" (The beast is immune to my blade!) she shouted in confusion. Laesa looked sideways to her as she spoke, needing no translation for her words this time.
"It's got orbalisks attached to it!" Morgist shouted as he scrambled back to his feet. "I know of them- Darth Æmeria wears them herself. They're resistant to lightsabers but the parasites are vulnerable to energy if it's not as focused. Call upon your anger and we can vanquish it!" Standing tall and proud once again, the Sith Lord extended both arms as a storm of lightning erupted from his fingertips, striking the beast on its side. It gave a growl, turning to Morgist and preparing to charge. His power clearly not enough, Morgist turned to the others, waiting for them to join in...
Keelah immediately followed suit, summoning down a powerful lightning storm on top of the creature with both hands outstretched to her sides. Laesa - having no instinct to summon lightning - held both hands out in front of herself, slowly raising them and in doing so caused the ground beneath the creature to quake as waves of Force energy propelled upwards from beneath it's feet - carrying the rock and soil with them.
Kelly joined in, priming the one concussive grenade on her belt and rolling it underneath the belly of the terentatek. It exploded in conjunction with the other attacks, a splendid display of energy as lightning lit up the creature's body and the energy shockwaves stumbled it back. It reared up, letting out a roar of agony before collapsing to the ground...or that's what it looked like. When Kelly spotted its posture and realized what it was up to, it was already too late. "It's not working, break off!" With all four claws down it lunged forward with surprising speed, too fast for Morgist to properly refocus his attention from the lightning or for anyone else to shield him. He began his leap but the beast was already there before he could cover enough distance. It smashed into him, sending him flying several metres before he finally landed hard despite the cushioning of the undergrowth. He struggled to get up and the terentatek seemed to savour in the Sith's terror as it loomed over him before finally lowering its head and clamping its jaws. The power of the newly consumed Force-user coursing through its body, it let out a long and triumphant roar before its attention was drawn to the others in the clearing...
Reeling from it's newfound power, the beast turned to it's next nearest prey - Laesa - and swing a clawed hand fast across her form, sweeping her off the floor and raising her to it's jaw. She struggled fruitlessly against it's powerful grip around her body as she watched it's jaw open above her head. Staring up into the gaping maw that threatened to consume her, Laesa reached up and summoned every ounce of strength and focus her body could afford her; both hands stretched outwards towards the creature's jaw. Laesa closed her eyes and grimaced as she pulled with all the might the Force would afford her; the creature momentarily recoiling with a pained roar as one of it's fangs tears itself from it's jaw with a splattering of dark red blood, and flies straight down to Laesa's waiting grasp. Seeing the creature briefly weakened, Keelah unleashed another - more focused - streak of lightning to distract it, combining with the pain of losing it's fang to prove enough to make the creature loosen it's grasp on Laesa. As she dropped to the floor at it's feet, Laesa stared up - shielding her eyes briefly from the dripping blood as the creature swung around wildly before it turned back down towards her, moving in quickly for a sharp kill on it's prey - enraged by the wound it suffered at her hand. Laesa watched, biding her time as the lightning-encased beast lunged it's open jaw down at her, waiting for the opportune moment before calling on the Force once more to lunge herself upwards directly into it's path. With the fang held outwards like the blade of a dagger, she drove it straight through the roof of the beasts mouth with a powerful Force-imbued strike that drove the fang right up into the beasts brain and sent it staggering backwards as the life drained from it's limbs. Taking a grip on it's jaw as she rode the momentum backwards, Laesa steadied herself as the beast finally succumbed and collapsed onto it's back. As the last breath of life left it's body, a swirl of Force energy rose from the beasts body and encircled Laesa; slowly absorbing into her form as the strength faded from the Force devouring beast... and into her. Panting for breath, but feeling the newfound power course through her veins; Laesa looked around to check that Kelly and Keelah were alright before hopping down to the ground to check on them both more thoroughly. With a nod in passing, she could see that Kelly was unharmed and moved to Keelah's side as she had collapsed to her knees. As she approached the pointy eared alien, Keelah looked up at Laesa with a nod to show she was unharmed - albeit physically drained from pushing so hard in the fight. Laesa helped Keelah back to her feet, where she immediately turned away from Laesa with a grateful hand on the taller girl's shoulder and moved to Morgist's side. Kneeling down and resting a hand on his forehead, Keelah bowed her head and began mumbling an incoherent prayer. Laesa meanwhile returned to the fallen beast and reached up inside it's jaw. With a sharp yank she retrieved the fang with which she had landed the killing blow, studying it in her hand a moment as she contemplated the significance of such a small thing proving key to their success. In this time, Keelah had completed her prayer and returned to Laesa's side where she too looked upon the large fang, "I' templa ve' lle yassen sina anna. Yassen ta lle caela poike i' taint tuulo' sina onna fea ar' mele lle e' doien ikotane" (The life magic blesses you with this gift. With it you have cleansed the taint from this beasts soul and empowered yourself in doing so.). She spoke with a soft and respectful tone, wrapping her hand around Laesa's which held the fang and in turn wrapping Laesa's hand around the fang before pulling in towards Laesa's chest as a gesture of ownership. Laesa looked to Keelah - deeply curious as to the meaning of her words, but understanding the context and intention and so replied with a simple smile and nod of acknowledgement.
Kelly made her way to the fallen terentatek, giving the beast's corpse only a cursory glance before turning her attention to Laesa then Keelah, ensuring that the surviving members of the group were not harmed. She joined them as they looked over the fang Laesa had retrieved, standing beside the two as she examined the trophy as well. "Good thinking there," congratulated Kelly. "Everyone alright?" She gazed over to the shuttle that was their way off the moon, the craft still tipped onto its side, "I might need a little help with that if you don't mind..."
Laesa nodded, knowing what needed to be done, and slid the fang carefully through the side of her belt. She looked sideways to Keelah with a moment contemplation as to how she would request the alien's help. Settling on simple sign language as it had proved understandable before, she pointed to the shuttle before making a sideways tipping motion with her body. Keelah stared back blankly at first, before smiling and pointing first to herself, then to Laesa, "That's right" Laesa nodded, "You and me; working together. Come on" she waved for Keelah to follow her as she approached the toppled shuttle. Closing her eyes with a moments focus, Laesa stood with her feet slightly apart as though bracing against the ground as she reached forwards with both hands outstretched. Keelah took up position at her side and followed suit with a similar stance, though she stood with only one hand outstretched with the palm facing directly towards the ship, opposed to Laesa's upturned palms. The combined efforts of the two proved more than adequate in returning to the shuttle to it's landing feet as it gently rolled over to settle back in an upright position, "Eller, lle kirya naa tanke!" (There, your ship is restored!) Keelah declared triumphantly as she released her grasp on the shuttle. With that she turned and began to walk away, Laesa grabbing her hand to hold her back, "Where are you going? We are leaving this place, remember?" Keelah stopped and looked down at her held hand before looking up to Laesa, "Amin kirya naa tanya men" (My ship is that way) she stated flatly, pointing in the direction she was headed. Seeing that Laesa did not understand, she turned and thought for a moment - taking a lead from Laesa's crude sign language she first pointed to the shuttle, then to Laesa, "Lle kirya" (Your ship) she stated before again turning partly away. Now pointing the same as before, then placing a hand on her chest to indicate self, "Amin kirya" (My ship). Letting go of her hand, Laesa turned to Kelly, "I... think she has her own ship" she looks back to Keelah, "You want to follow us out in your own ship?" to which Keelah nodded, "Uma". Laesa looked back to Kelly once again, "It's your call"
Kelly responded first to Laesa, "It's definitely not a good idea to leave her ship here. We've seen how dangerous this place can be; if the ship doesn't get torn apart while we're gone she might not be able to make her way to it if she ever comes back. And if you're worried about her running off, well, it's not like she's our prisoner or anything. She's got no obligation to follow us, she's only doing so out of her own will." Turning next to Keelah, she asked, "Is there a reason we can't just all use your ship? Is it forbidden for outsiders like us to come in, or are there too many of us to fit?"
Keelah chuckled, a sight and sound which brought an involuntary smile to Laesa's face as she reveled in the cute and innocent sound of the infectious giggle, "Amin-aya mela a', nan' ta's ere' alta faarea ten' er!" (I would love to, but it's only big enough for one!). Still giggling slightly as she recalled the fact that the funny looking round-eared aliens couldn't understand her, she pondered a moment before pointing to the shuttle and stretching her arms out wide. Then pointing in the direction of her ship before drawing her hands close together. Laesa - growing accustomed to their sign dialogue - understood clearly, "Ah... so your ship is not big enough for all of us. Very well then" she turned to Kelly, "I assume there's some details in the shuttles navigational computer that we can pass to her so she can follow us?"