Tower of Time: Long Ago and Far Away
   

Under the Shadow of the Builders
Part 22- Facing the Darkness

“Well, thanks for the ride, Ordo,” Ev said gruffly as she stepped off the loading ramp, Juhani at her heels.

“Your credits already spoke for you,” Canderous replied, patting his pocket, “It was a pleasure doing business with you, Jedi.”

Ev shot him an angry glare, “I'm no Jedi, not any more. I told you, I've had enough of those saps trying to hold me back. You better watch it. I may reconsider what I paid you.” With a wicked grin, she conspicuously stroked the hilt of her lightsaber.

“Tough talk for a Sith wannabe,” Canderous said with a dry chuckle.

Ev shot Canderous and his crew another superior glance before striding off. Juhani still followed silently after her. As Carth watched her go, apprehension grew in the pit of his stomach. She already makes a pretty convincing Sith. What if...?

“Good to see the Ebon Hawk back around these parts, it is,” a shabbily dressed man with a Czerka patch on his shoulder spoke up. Carth hadn't seen him lounging in the shade of the hangar bay wall.

“Who are you?” Canderous asked suspiciously.

“Just a mechanic,” the man shrugged, “I do routine repairs on all the ships that come through here. It's been a while since this beauty came to port here though. I take it she has changed hands?”

“What of it?” Canderous demanded.

“Oh, I'm not meaning to raise any fuss,” the mechanic wasn't intimidated by Canderous in the slightest, “The Hawk never seems to stay with anyone for very long. Used to do runs with the Exchange, it did. Smugglers like them like nice, remote ports like this one. That bird of yours really was made to be a smuggler. Though, it's none of my business what you do with it.”

“No, it's not,” Canderous retorted shortly, “But say we were in the business, where would we find work?”

The mechanic chuckled, “I'd start at the cantina. That's really all there is in Dreshdae at any rate: cantina, Czerka office, some apartments, and a whole lot of Sith.”

“Say, is there anything else you can tell us about this place?” Jolee put in.

“Korriban? Sure,” he replied lazily, “There's really nothing much here. It's a pretty barren planet. It's not really interesting, unless you're a Sith. They seem to think this place is pretty special.”

“Special, hm?” Jolee echoed.

“It's probably got to be them ruins,” the mechanic replied, “Why, they practically built their training academy right on top of them.”

“Ruins? Sounds like there's a bit of money to be made there,” Canderous said thoughtfully, “And how does one get there?”

“You don't, not unless you're a Sith,” he replied apologetically, “But they still offer plenty of shipping jobs. Just ask around at the cantina like I said.”

“Well, thanks,” Canderous said grudgingly.

“Any time. Take care of yourselves,” the mechanic said with a wave, “Ah, by the by, do you need any tune ups?”

“Nah. That's what I've got the kid and the old coot for,” Canderous replied with a coarse gesture at Jolee and Mission.

“Fair enough,” he nodded the pointed for the hangar bay door, “Port registration is over that way.”

The odd quintet sauntered towards the Czerka docking officer, who stood dully behind a computer console. Skipping past greetings, he said, “Since your ship is a regular here, the docking fee will be only twenty-five credits.”

Canderous wordlessly dug out the necessary credits and tossed them at the man behind the console.

“And I'll need your name,” the man added.

“Canderous Ordo,” he replied simply.

“I see the Ebon Hawk has changed hands again,” the man observed as he typed in the registration information.

Canderous shrugged, “I got tired of doing thug work for Davik, but I liked his ship.”

It was true enough. That was the whole reason they had Canderous along in the first place.

“How you got your ship is no business of mine,” the man replied, “But just see you adhere to the Dreshdae laws, or you'll have the Sith to answer to.”

With that, they moved on, leaving their ship in the hands of their droids. Carth hoped it was enough.

They passed down a few blank corridors before rounding into a large chamber with scattered people milling about. None of them were the sort that Carth would want to associate with. Nearly everyone's attention, however, was focused on the other end of the chamber, where a trio of young Twi'leks knelt pleading before an equally young Sith man. Even Ev and Juhani watched inconspicuously, not far off.

Carth and his group drew closer to see what was going on.

“Anything you say, Master Shaardan,” the female among them pleaded, “We'll do anything you ask of us.”

“Yes! Anything to get us into the academy,” one of here companions piped up.

“Master? I'm not a master yet, but I like the sound of that,” the young man, Shaardan, mused, “Fine. You want an academy medallion? You have to prove yourselves. Prove to me that you're worthy of becoming a Sith.”

“How?” one of the male Twi'leks asked quickly.

“What can we do?” the other asked over him.

“Kill her,” Shaardan pronounced with crisp neutrality as he pointed to the young female between them.

She gasped and fell back onto her haunches.

“What?” the first male protested.

“We can't do that! She's our friend,” the other argued, “We were going to become Sith together.”

“Fools!” Shaardan sneered, “Sniveling fools, all of you. Is friendship more important to you than inheriting the power of the Sith? Becoming a Sith isn't a team game, it's a solo competition. Mercy is a weakness. And you,” he rounded on the Twi'lek woman, “Where is your drive to fight for your life? Fear is your weakness. You are not fit to become a Sith.”

“So now what?” Ev asked suddenly. Carth hadn't realized how close she had moved to the conflict.

“Who are you?” Shaardan demanded, his eyes narrowing.

“Does it matter?” Ev retorted neutrally.

“I suppose it doesn't,” Shaardan replied, “But maybe you can help me with a problem here.”

“Oh?” Ev cocked an eyebrow.

“These fools idiotically thought they had what it takes to become a Sith,” he explained with inflated superiority, “I just can't decided how to punish them. I could strip them of their clothes and parade them through the colony or boil their innards. On the other hand, Force lightning could be nice and spectacular. What do you say?”

Ev thoughtfully ran her fingers over her jaw line. “Let 'em go,” she said at last, “I don't understand why you waste your time on these wimps anyway.”

“What?” Shaardan snapped indignantly.

“The way I heard it,” Ev continued coolly, “Sith are powerful, right? Why stoop so low as to scurry around stomping on bugs if you have as much power as they say you do? Or are you Sith just as much a bag of sissies as the Jedi?”

Shaardan's hand clenched tightly into a fist. “Why you—!” he fumed, “You fallen Jedi are the worst; always thinking you're better than the rest, always getting into the academy no problem. You're really nothing more than these pathetic hopefuls.”

“Tsk,” Ev clicked her tongue disapprovingly, “Resorting to insults are we?”

Shaardan was growing white-faced with rage.

“I'll tell you what makes me different than these spineless sops,” Ev started, taking a step closer to him, “I can pick you up off the ground and toss you across the room without lifting a finger. They can't.”

Shaardan started to say something, but snapped his mouth back shut. Ev continued to watch him with an even, expectant stare. Finally he collected himself, “You watch yourself ex-Jedi.” With that he spun on his heels and retreated away down another corridor.

“The name is Ren Va,” she called boldly after him, but he neither slowed nor responded.

Ev stared over the three terrified Twi'leks with the same cold, compassion-less eyes she had just shown Shaardan. They cowered and quivered under her gaze. She suggestively tilted her head in the direction of the space port, then turned back to Juhani.

The three Sith hopefuls babbled quiet thanks as they hurriedly stumbled away.

Through a show of Sith-like bravado, Ev had saved those three. Even so, Carth wasn't sure if he liked it.

Ev, for her part, murmured something to Juhani that Carth couldn't hear. Then, the two of them strode off deeper into the colony.


After Canderous was satisfied by chatting with several clusters of smugglers and harassing the Czerka personnel, his quintet finally found its way to the cantina. As in any outer rim space port, its occupants were some of the shadiest crews Carth ever ran into. Though, for a space port cantina, it was surprisingly empty. That might have had something to do with the scattered groups of proud to surly looking Dark Jedi that also dined and drank in the dim bar. Already among their numbers were Juhani and Ev.

Canderous led Carth, Mission, Zaalbar, and Jolee to sit around a table between their two Jedi friends and a pair of pilots that had the air of smugglers about them.

Almost immediately after they had ordered some food and drink, the smugglers behind them chimed in, “That's a nice ship you got there.”

“Oh?” Canderous measured them up with a raised eyebrow.

“I saw you lot coming from the Ebon Hawk,” the smuggler continued, “I'd love to take a spin in that ship. It's whole class above my boring freighter.”

Canderous chuckled, “I came by it by opportunity when Davik was buried in the rubble of Telos.”

“The Ebon Hawk might be the best smuggler in the galaxy,” the other smuggler put in skeptically, “But I'll pass. I hear the thing is cursed.”

“Cursed, you say?” Jolee asked.

“That ship does a fine job outliving its past owners,” the first smuggler explained.

“It brings them all to ruin in the end,” the second man agreed, “Davik died on Taris. Ahita Othar was found dead at some shady dive on Nar Shadaa just about the time Davik took over the ship. And I know that she didn't buy it from Forii Haxa, wherever he is now. He used to be quite the smuggler back in the day, but no one has heard from him since he lost the ship.”

“That seems like a character flaw in high stakes smugglers to me, more than a cursed ship,” Carth observed objectively.

“Think what you like, but you'd better watch yourself,” the second one wagged a warning finger in Carth's direction, “And your captain too, flying with that bird.”

“Advice taken,” Carth could hardly take the men seriously. Though we seem to constantly be flying into death traps on this mission anyway. But maybe the fact that we've made it out alive every time is proof enough that they're wrong.

“What would the captain of a cursed ship have to do to get a job around here?” Canderous asked with dry humor. He didn't buy the idea of a curse either.

“There's the usual spice and heavy weapons trade out here,” the first smuggler began, “But the real money to be made is in working with the Sith.”

“It's not as regular, I can promise you that,” the second cut in, “But they pay enough to make it worth your while.”

“Now what would the Sith be wanting to put into the hands of smugglers?” Jolee mused.

“Creepy as hell artifacts, that's what,” the second smuggler answered, “We used to take 'em to Taris, but...”

“Can't do that now,” Mission cut in.

The first smuggler nodded, “She's right. I think that's why we've been so long without a shipment. They're still deciding on a middle point.”

“So you don't have any of those artifacts on you now, then?” Jolee asked.

“Nah,” the first shrugged, “I wouldn't be sitting around this cantina if I had something in my hold, would I?”

“Fair enough,” Canderous nodded.

“Where do all those artifacts come from?” Jolee pressed. For one who didn't like people prying into his business, he was remarkably good at putting his nose into others'.

“In that valley full of ruins on the other side of this mountain,” the first smuggler answered.

“Ruins, you say?” Ev suddenly rose and slunk over to the smugglers' table, Juhani still acting as her shadow. They had been listening in the whole time. “I happen to be interested in ruins myself.”

“Well, lady, you're not just going to be able to walk in there yourself,” the first smuggler said suspiciously, “There's no land route except through the academy, and they watch all the ships that come through like hawks. You have to be a Sith to have any kind of freedom to look around in that valley.”

“That tempt you any more into joining the Sith, Ren?” Canderous chided her.

“It does give a free-lancer like myself something to think about,” Ev said slowly.

“Well, if ruins are what get you going, sister, that kid over there is one of the head excavators in the valley these days,” the smuggler gestured to a young man with dark hair eating by himself, only two tables away. His back was towards them, but the tell-tale gray uniform said everything they needed to know about his affiliation.

With a sly smile Ev said, “Thanks, spacer,” and strolled the short distance between them and the lone Sith young man. Ev, uninvited, slid into the chair across from him. “So, I hear you work in the ruins,” Ev said with a narrow grin.

“Yeah, I do excavations there when I'm not training,” he admitted warily, “Who are you to be asking about them?”

Ev extended a hand, “I'm Ren Va, and I'm toying with the idea of trying to get into the academy.”

Although the young man regarded her suspiciously, he took her hand and shook it, “Dak Vesser.”

“Dak? Is that really you?” Juhani gasped, moving around Ev to where she could get a better look at him.

“Wait—Juhani? What are you doing here?” he gaped, then his gaze hardened, “No, I don't want to know.”

“You've really joined the Sith? You've fallen to the Dark Side,” Juhani observed, stunned. Slowly, she sank into the chair between Dak and Ev.

“I had my eyes opened, Juhani. Last time I saw you, if I remember, you were having doubts of your own,” Dak observed. There was a hint of injured pride—or perhaps something more—in his voice.

“Yes, but I was brought back,” she said with quiet eagerness, glancing momentarily at Ev, “And I see where I was wrong. Dak, you could—”

“Juhani, no—,” he started forcefully, but broke into confused stammering. “I—I don't know what you and your friend are doing here, nosing around about the ruins, but I don't want to know.” He stood suddenly, “And I don't want to be around when people start asking questions.” Without another word, he tensely turned and took a few steps towards the exit.

“Dak, wait,” Juhani called after him.

He paused mid-stride. Over his shoulder, he said quietly, “And try not to get yourself killed.” With that, he hurried out of the cantina.

Ev leveled her dark gaze at Juhani.

“I never thought he would actually...” Juhani murmured.

“Are you alright?” Ev asked quietly.

Juhani straightened up and her face hardened, “Yes, I am fine. This is no place for...”

“Well, it seems that we're not going to get a look at those ruins without going through the academy,” Ev said, standing up. “Let's see if we can't find a way in.”

“Ev—Ren,” Juhani caught herself, “After this, I think I would rather...”

Ev nodded curtly, “I understand. We'll talk about it back on the ship. But, let's find out what we can tonight.”

The pair of masquerading Jedi crossed the cantina to a trio of Dark Jedi who were just leaving their table.

“Say, what does it take to get into this academy,” Ev asked casually, “I like your style here.”

“Oh, so you're the woman who humiliated Shaardan earlier,” a dark-haired woman among them chuckled, “Nice.”

“So, what does it take?” Ev pressed.

“Prove yourself worthy of becoming a Sith, and you'll get a medallion clearing you for entry,” the woman's taller friend explained.

“And who do I prove myself to to get one of those medallions?” Ev asked, eyes narrowing.

“One of us,” the dark-haired girl replied, “Anyone already in the academy, really.”

“Well—” Ev started.

“But don't think that verbal sparing match with Shaardan is enough to impress us,” the third young woman put in, “He may be an overconfident little prick, but he's not even a full student at the academy yet. You've got to do better than that.”

“Not that I'd mind seeing the end of him,” the taller girl added.

“Anyway, Master Yuthura Ban has the final say in who gets in, medallion or no,” the first Sith woman explained, “She sometimes comes up here around lunch time to scope out perspectives. You might catch her tomorrow if you're lucky.”

“Thanks for the tip,” Ev said slyly. “Maybe I'll see you in the academy soon.”

“Maybe you will,” the dark-haired girl shrugged, “Or maybe you'll get killed trying to prove yourself worthy enough to get in.”

Chuckling cruelly, the three Sith women strolled out of the cantina.

As Ev and Juhani strutted back over to where Canderous, Carth, and the others sat, Juhani looked paler than usual, but Ev was as unreadable as she had ever been. As a Jedi, she had been unusually open with her emotions. The Sith of Korriban had given her reason to be more closed-faced. Her old Jedi masters would be proud. That is, if they could stand for the idea of her being on Korriban at all.

“Looks like we're not going anywhere tonight,” she announced to their table, “Still have a couple of spare bunks on that ship of yours, Ordo?”

“My ship isn't a charity hotel,” Canderous said gruffly.

“You'll be fairly compensated,” Ev replied coolly, “Or do you want to argue with my lightsaber.”

“Save your Sith-proving for the other Sith,” Canderous snapped.

“Fine,” Ev replied.

Having already finished eating, they all headed back for the Ebon Hawk together. As they entered the hangar bay, Carth spotted a figure lurking in the shadows below their ship. His hands went immediately for his blasters.

The stranger stepped out into the light and addressed Canderous. It was the young Sith boy from before. “Captain, can you take a passenger off this planet, no questions asked?” he asked darkly.

“It depends on—” Canderous started, but Dak interrupted him, eyes growing wide.

“Juhani? You're with this crew?” he demanded in dismay.

“What are you doing?” Juhani asked, stepping forward to stand beside Canderous.

“I'm trying to get the first ship off this planet,” Dak replied exasperatedly, “Like I said, I don't want to be around when questions start getting asked.” He took a deep breath, “I'll look elsewhere for a ride.

As he pushed quickly by them, Juhani called quietly, “Thank you, Dak.” He neither stopped nor acknowledged her.

Before the Ebon Hawk's loading ramp had contacted the ground, another voice came from the entrance to the landing bay.

“Canderous Ordo!” a man yelled gruffly. All heads turned as he stormed, silhouetted, over towards them.

“What?” Canderous demanded.

“I knew I saw your name on the docking register,” the man, about Canderous' age, said haughtily, “I've been looking for you everywhere.”

Canderous took a step back in surprise when the light caught the man's face. “Jagi? I haven't seen you since the battle over Athir,” Carth stammered, “I thought you were—”

“Dead? Along with the rest of my squad?” the man fumed, “You strayed from the battle plans, sending us to our death as some distraction just so you could have the honor of killing the enemy commander yourself.”

“Jagi, I—” Canderous stammered. The other Mandalorian had managed to strip Canderous of all of his cocky warrior's pride. “I did what I thought prudent at the time.”

“Prudent? Bah!” Jagi spat, “Using your fellow Mandalorian warriors as a shield is unacceptable. Maybe with all of us dead, you thought you could get away with what you did, but I have told others in the clans the truth about the Battle of Athir. Canderous, I challenge you to a duel between you and myself and the other survivors. If you refuse, you will be stripped of all your honor as a Mandalorian warrior. The clans know of my plan as well.”

“Name the time and place,” Canderous said tensely through gritted teeth.

“There is a plateau about two-hundred clicks due west of here,” Jagi answered, “I will be there waiting for you with the others, two days from now at sunrise.”

“Fine,” Canderous replied.

“We will settle this there,” Jagi said eagerly then turned on his heels and stormed away.

As Canderous stood immobilized, watching him go, Jolee cleared his throat and suggested, “Well, why don't we get on board before anyone else decides to pay a visit?”

Once safely aboard, Ev gathered the entire crew in the ship's central hold. Before Ev could speak her own plans, Canderous said, “Ev, I have been given a challenge I can't ignore. I have to meet Jagi and the other survivors. My honor as a Mandalorian is at stake.”

Ev nodded gravely, “Jagi's demands only made my plans fall more neatly into place. You will take the Ebon Hawk and go to that plateau, but not before you have picked up and easy job, or at least pretended to. Get out of here tomorrow morning as soon as you can.”

“Why so soon?” Mission asked, “I though you need to get into those ruins.”

“I'm not going with you,” Ev answered curtly, “And as to why you need to leave, we've seen already that the Ebon Hawk is well-known around this port. It won't take the Sith long to put two and two together to figure out that we're here. If the ship leaves, maybe all of those spacers will forget that we were here on anything more than a routine smuggling mission.”

“But what about you?” Mission asked, concerned.

“I need to get to those ruins to find the star map, and the only way to do it is through the academy,” Ev explained, “I'm going to have to become a Sith trainee.”

“What? You have to be kidding me!” Carth exclaimed, “That's way too dangerous! I've seen how easily you Jedi tip.”

“Do you see any other way, Carth?” Ev demanded.

She hadn't used his first name since the Leviathan.

“Ev, I don't think I can...” Juhani started quietly.

“Juhani, I had hoped to have you at my back in here, but I don't want to ask too much of you,” Ev addressed her gently.

“Thinking about what those people did to Dak; it is too much for me,” Juhani admitted, “I fear that my angers and passions are still too strong to walk into a place like that and come out unchanged, even with you there as my example. I am sorry.”

“You know yourself better than I do, Juhani,” Ev replied evenly, “If you are concerned that being surrounded by so many Sith might cause you to fall again, then it is better for you and for the mission if you stay with the ship.”

“I don't like the idea of you going in there alone,” Carth muttered.

Ev stared straight at him for far longer than was comfortable, as if trying to discern the motivation behind his words. “Neither do I,” she said at last. She turned her attention back to the entire crew, “When you're away from Dreshdae, I need you to constantly have your ear to the comlink and to the open radio channels, listening for anything funny going on. I don't know what awaits me in that academy, but I may need an air lift at a moment's notice. You also might be able to hear if the Sith have caught onto me through radio gossip. You need someone on those radios at all times of day, understand?”

“We won't let you down, Ev,” Mission said confidently, “Not when you're doing all of the hard work.”

“Good,” Ev nodded, “Then it's all settled. We will go our separate ways in the morning.” Ev hardly looked relieved. As she turned to leave the room, Jolee caught her attention.

“Listen here,” he said, “Don't start thinking you're invincible and do anything stupid in there. Sure, there are a lot of Sith at that academy that this galaxy could do without, but you coming out of this alive and still walking on the right side of the line is more important than any of them getting dead. You hear me?”

Ev nodded, putting a hand on his shoulder, “I'll do my best.”


~~~


When they went out again in the morning, Juhani stayed on the ship. She insisted that Dak may have told others about her in his time at the academy, so it was not safe for her to be seen in Dreshdae.

After breakfast in the cantina, Canderous and the others set to work finding a job that wouldn't put a bounty on their head when it wasn't completed. Ev, meanwhile plied her way at every Dark Jedi that looked approachable, trying to get her hands on an entry medallion. None of them seemed impressed.

Despite Ev's bold words the night before, Carth didn't feel comfortable leaving her without supervision. Instead of going along with his crew of false smugglers, Carth dawdled over his breakfast and kept a subtle eye on Ev.

Finally, a purple Twi'lek woman who commanded the immediate attention of the other Sith present strode into the cantina. Carth had never seen a Twi'lek that color before. He suspected her coloring was due to the intricate tattoos that covered nearly her entire head and lekku rather than accident of birth. The woman strode up to the bar as if she knew all eyes were on her, and settled down onto a stool. The barkeep served her a large cup of caff without even being asked.

Meanwhile, the Sith student Ev had been talking to muttered something to her behind a cupped hand. A thin smile crossed Ev's face, and she nodded. Striding across the room and up to the bar, Ev slid into the seat next to the Twi'lek woman.

“Are you Yuthura Ban?” Ev asked straight out.

“Yes, that would be me,” the woman replied, “And I suppose you are yet another hopeful trying to get into the academy.”

“Yes, in fact,” Ev replied, “I am. The name's Ren Va.”

“Charming,” Yuthura replied, sipping at her caff, “You seem to be out of luck, unfortunately. We have just concluded our trainee selection process for this season. Come back in a few months.”

“The Sith have my attention now, but perhaps they won't in a few months,” Ev replied flippantly.

“And you want me to think that if we don't take you now, you'll go back to the Jedi?” Yuthura asked.

Carth tried not to flinch where he sat. How does she know that Ev was a Jedi?

Ev patted her lightsaber conspicuously. “No,” she replied, “I might find myself more content as a free-lancer. The Jedi were too stuffy, too strict about some of the stupidest things. But leaving the Order means I'm out of work. No one wants to hire an ex-Jedi. I'm too unpredictable.”

“Oh, you fallen Jedi are all-together too predictable,” Yuthura disagreed, “Most of you either give up your sabers entirely, living a life of distant bitterness, or you show up on our doorstep, expecting to be welcomed with open arms.” Yuthura paused, “But, that's not how we do things here.”

Ev edged closer to Yuthura on the edge of her stool. “Shall I give you my resume?” she asked, but continued without being prompted, “I received only some training from the Jedi, but it was enough to make me pretty damned good with a lightsaber. My telekinesis and mind skills are passable, though patient mediation was never my strength.”

“And techniques such as Force lightning?” Yuthura asked. For a moment, she seemed interested.

“Never tried it,” Ev shrugged.

“Hmm,” Yuthura sat back thoughtfully, “What baffles me is this: the Force is clearly very strong with you, and yet, the Jedi let you go so easily with so little training. Even your attitude betrays how little time you have spent with the Jedi. I see the darkness within you, waiting to be released.”

“Pfft. The Jedi hardly let me go easily,” Ev contradicted, “It took a dead Padawan to wake them up to my un-Jedi-like behavior. While they were deciding whether or not to wash their hands of me, I got off-planet. I've been system-hopping ever since.”

“You intrigue me, but some things still do not line up,” Yuthura said slowly, “Perhaps the Jedi have sent you here to spy on us, for all the good that would do them.”

“As if the Jedi would resort to that!” Ev practically laughed. “After what happened to Ulic Qel-Droma? That's one 'mistake' they wouldn't repeat.”

“Perhaps you're right,” Yuthura replied, “But no, you don't have me convinced. I won't be the one to bring you into the academy. We have more than enough new students to contend with.”

Ev only nodded stiffly. She rose from the bar and strode towards the door. Her posture showed both pride and anger. Carth shuffled his plates, making to stand and follow after her.

Ev, however, was stopped short in the arched entrance to the cantina. Three gray-uniformed Sith trainees loomed ahead of her: an Aqualish, a young man, and an Arkanian man. Broad shouldered and brawny, all three towered over her.

“How about this one Feris?” the Arkanian asked with a crude gesture to Ev with the butt of his lightsaber hilt. “She looks like one of those snotty ex-Jedi trying to get into the academy.”

“So what if I am?” Ev bristled. Although it was a casual movement, her hand was already on the unclipped hilt of her lightsaber. Carth's hands went to his own weapons.

“Guess what, worm?” the young man taunted, “We already got the last spots for this session.”

The Aqualish chortled proudly.

“We just got our lightsabers and are looking to celebrate our entry into the academy,” the Arkanian added. He waved the silver and black hilt lazily in front of Ev's face. “Care to give us a bit of fun?”

“They give you one of those here without training you to use it first? You'd better be careful,” Ev advised mockingly, “You might cut yourself.”

All eyes in the cantina were on the brewing conflict. Even Yuthura Ban's.

The young man spat at her feet.

“Now that wasn't polite,” Ev said darkly.

“Who are you to be telling us what's what?” the man snapped, “We're the ones with all the power. Now that we're part of the Sith, we can do anything!”

“Is that what they tell you?” Ev asked, eyebrow raised. “As a fresh little Sithy baby, I'd hardly expect anything out of you.”

“You watch your mouth, you stuffed-up shag,” the young man fumed, “Or I'll take it right off your pretty face.”

“You just try,” Ev goaded.

Carth didn't realize until that moment that Ev had been trying to pick a fight all along.

All three Sith lit their lightsabers and prepared to fight. Ev, however, was faster. Her violet blade wasn't even fully extended yet when she leaped at the young man. An instant later, his had landed with a sickeningly wet thud on the cantina floor. Moments later, his body toppled down after it. His two companions watched it fall, stunned.

“Feris!” the Arkanian exclaimed in stunned disbelief. With a roar, he raise his lightsaber over his head with both hands and charged at Ev.

No one has taught him how to guard, have they?

Already shorter than the Arkanian, Ev needed only to crouch slightly, before stabbing her lightsaber blade straight through his chest. Sputtering and writhing, the burly man let his lightsaber fall from his hands, and staggered back against the door frame for support. Ev let him go and whirled around low to catch the Aqualish, who charged in after him. The controlled sweep of her blade separated his torso from his legs. Eyes wide, he collapsed into two pieces on top of the bodies of his friends.

None of the three newly-christened Sith even had a chance to cross sabers with her.

Amid a few whistles and cheers from the other Sith students in the cantina, Ev confidently extinguished her weapon and clipped it back to her belt. The Arkanian, panting hard and bleeding profusely from the hole in his chest, still sat hunched up against the door frame.

Ev knelt down beside him and said quietly, “Don't ever try to insult someone who can use a lightsaber better than you can. You won't like the results.” With a satisfied chuckle, she reached over and plucked the round silver badge off of his bloodied uniform.

Clenching the medallion in her hand, Ev stood up and turned back towards the bar. Behind her, the Arkanian man coughed violently then slumped over, breathing his last.

Ev strode straight for Yuthura Ban, who met her eyes evenly. She presented the medallion to her. “Is this the medallion I need to enter the academy?” she asked pointedly.

“Very enterprising of you,” Yuthura said, a slow smile crossing her lips. “Seeing as you have relieved me of three idiot trainees, I think I will have to reconsider. You would still join us?”

“On one condition,” Ev replied quickly.

“Oh? What is that?” Yuthura asked. She no longer seemed so pleased.

“He comes along,” Ev gestured over her shoulder to Carth, who still stood with blasters ready in both hands.

“Him?” Yuthura asked skeptically, “What for?”

Carth struggled to hide his own surprise. What is she up to now? She thinks I want actually to go in there with a bunch of Sith kids?

“After that little incident, I'd have to be crazy to walk into the Sith academy without someone to watch my back and guard the door while I sleep,” Ev explained. “Everyone knows the Sith's reputation for back-stabbing and betrayal in the name of power.”

“Fair enough,” Yuthura admitted, “You can keep him.”

“Good,” Ev nodded.

“Welcome to the Sith, Ren Va,” Yuthura said.

- Next Part -

 

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