Title: Conventions Author: Oddly_Salacious Timeframe: 2194 BBY, Old Republic, Inter-Sith Wars Characters: OC Genre: EU Keywords: Omwati, Dromund Kaas, Stygian Caldera, Twi'lek, Sava Subject: A discussion about the lost planet of Dromund Kaas begins after a controversial professor's lecture. Beta Reader: Findswoman Sources: SW-Jedi Knight: Mysteries of the Sith, SW-The Essential Atlas, Star Wars: A New Hope (novel) Conventions There was a dry crumpling heard in the gallery as thin hands scraped together the papers on the podium. The scholarly amongst the dispersing shadows supposed whether or not the senior professor had emitted the noise. "What, Delwyn? Are you not curious?" Delwyn glanced from his screen reading. She wafted towards him, appearing in the effervescence of youth, moving through the exiting crowd with doe-like grace and in the confidence that comes in the latter half of a second year. Appearances were deceiving. "Rosendell," Delwyn said as his fingers danced through a quick reproach to a student's errant post. "Close. It's Rosindale. Broad 'a' with the 'e' pronounced." She drifted into the vacant stadium seat next to him. "Doll-la. No one ever gets that." "Mmm," Delwyn said. "Most humans would mispronounce my birthname," Rosindale said. "But I never imagined my adopted Basic name could prove as challenging." "That so?" "What did you think of the lecture? Professor Cirnix is—" "Profound," Delwyn cut in. "Cirnix or the lecture?" Delwyn dropped his screen into sleep mode and placed the slim device on his trouser knee. He faced the young Omwati with lifted, expectant eyebrows. Rosindale flushed a deeper shade of blue before regaining some composure. Her pert nose lifted even so. "I am simply curious about the reference Professor Cirnix made at the end. I do not remember hearing of the settlement." "Dromund Kaas being a prominent settling within the Stygian Caldera," Delwyn corrected her on the gravimetric term. He fixed the young woman with a serious eye. "Dromund Kaas is a planet and best left alone." "Mysterious." Delwyn exhaled. His gaze went to the stage—to the rumpled and rustling professor in his slow amble towards the exit. Gathered and alone, the white hair as unkempt as the brown blazer the professor dropped over his torso. "Another bold stroke that, Professor," Delwyn acknowledged after the departing man. "Understand that his retirement has been requested from the highest levels," he said to Rosindale. "Otherwise, he would have left such a comment out." "Why?" "Best left alone," Delwyn cautioned again. He picked up his screen reader to return to the scroll of comments and questions. "There is plenty here, in the Core Worlds, with which to satisfy the cravings for adventure and excitement." "The Stygian Caldera is linked to the Sith Empire. It's out of bounds to ponder, naturally. Or haven't you heard of Professor Callomb?" Delwyn's face darkened even as he determined to remain intent on his screen. A human male and Ush Mei-mei approached and took the seats in front of Delywn and Rosindale. It was the human, Mathewe, who had spoken, who sat backwards with his knees pulled to his chest, and who had soured Delwyn's composure. Ush Mei-mei pulled her twin lekku in front of her shoulders and sat more appropriately. "The Sith? The Sith were exterminated almost two thousand years ago," Rosindale replied. Mathewe cocked his head to Delwyn. His long blonde hair slipped to that side to brush the shoulder of his linen shirt. "Someone has read her Hesterwood." He cut his clear blue eyes over to the attractive graduate student. "Hesterwood is a Republican towel boy, Rosie. Yessir. Never eyeball the pulp that steams out of Port Coruscant. Pure mang'elo." Ush Mei-mei let out a small yelp followed by a quick embarrassed smile in her orange face. Her lekku—her Twi'lekian head-tails—flicked with mild consternation. "Careful, Mathewe." "She's just nervous," Mathewe said to Rosindale, jerking a thumb in Ush Mei-mei's direction. "With her Therlan Prize tucked away, Wyvermet Hall is in the cinch. Isn't that right, my good Doctor? The Astrophysics Department of old U-of-B can't compete with stodgy Queen of the Core University, what?" Ush Mei-mei shook her head at her friend's blithe attitude. Delwyn's jaw clenched. Rosindale's eyes brightened. "Sava Callomb was Professor Cirnix's preceptor and mentor both," Delwyn interjected in the effort to steal the momentum from Mathewe. "This," he nodded towards the stage meaning the Dromund Kaas comment, "Callomb had theorized that another hyperspace route must exist into the Caldera—a viable branch of the Shaltin Tunnels that would bypass the Republican stockade at Obroa-skai and, presumably, the Korriban spacetime manifold." "Did he rediscover Korriban and the Daragon Trail?" Rosindale searched the faces of each person in turn. "No," Ush Mei-mei answered. "Callomb's expedition failed after nearly three years. Professor Cirnix is the only survivor that sad expedition." The elegant wings tattooed at the corners of her down-turned eyes glittered in the vacuous auditorium half-light. Mathewe spoke up. "They found Dromund Kaas instead." "That's debated," Delwyn said. "There's nothing to substantiate the claim about the planet." "Although many of the Sava's postulates concerning the Caldera exist in the library's Reserve Collection," Mathewe countered. "Generalized for matters concerning neutron stars and absorption nebulae, yes. And Professor Cirnix has since similarly contributed scores of papers about orbital mechanics and energetic attractions. But nothing of Dromund Kaas exists in the official records," Delwyn said returning the conversation to an even footing. "Core blast it!" Mathewe blurted. "Official! That's the word isn't it? Surely, Delywn!" "If you imply unofficial writings hidden in mouldering archives awaiting the prying eyes of diligent undergrads, you're off the mark," Delywn said. "This old rumor needs to end." "Do they exist? Did Cirnix write about Dromund Kaas?" Rosindale was enthralled, but a jagged silence had dropped over the others. Delywn scooted straighter in his chair and brushed the wrinkles from his trouser legs. "Professor Cirnix granted me access to some of his private journals," Ush Mei-mei quietly confessed. All eyes in the little gathering spun to the Twi'lek. "This was six months ago, mind," she added quickly. "—After I posted my conclusions on naturally occurring waveguides in cold nebular semi-solids. Cirnix approached me when I was proving the non-reliance on the Counterbalancing Constant in my models. I was under considerable stress or I might never have entertained the idea." "That explains it," Mathewe muttered. Ush Mei-mei fixed him with a hard stare, but then let the private moment pass. "Professor Cirnix thought something in these journals might refine the third limiting case I had stated," she continued. "I—I did not find anything of use." "And there you have it. Nothing but whoosh with a bit of toddle," Mathewe said, his clean face a picture of false incredulity. He leaned backwards into an impossible position of repose between his seat and the seat back in front, his long arms crossing behind his head. The silence settled again. Then Delywn said, "And here we have it: speaking of ancient mythologies and romanticizing forgotten worlds. This is what Cirnix wanted." "It's his Zhargian shot at those who wish him sacked." Mathewe quipped. "Precisely that, Mathewe. Now, if you would all please." He lifted his screen reader. "What did Cirnix have in his journals about Dromund Kaas?" Rosindale asked, ignoring Delywn. "Why did the professor return from the Caldera alone? What happened to Callomb and the rest of those who went on the expedition? Did they make contact with someone on the planet?" "If a remnant civilization of Sith exists, the Republic would be swift in action against it," Delwyn said. "I wonder," Mathewe said. He swept one arm wide. "It's a very large galaxy, isn't it? More of it pops onto maps each day. Sith, badly behaving Jedi, or whatever. Seems to this silly bean that they hypered off to whatever cosmic corner suited their fancy or they simply died out long ago." "That's a dangerous assumption, what?" Rosindale laughed. "It was a similar attitude that precipitated the Jedi Civil—" "A-n-cient yeesh-tor-eee," Mathewe intoned, waving dismissively at the suggestion. "Don't be such a twa'ng, Matty," Ush Mei-mei chided in her soft voice. "The planet is not desolate," she answered, turning to Rosindale. "It's home to an untamable jungle and swamps. There is unspeakable violence there. The skies, Professor Cirnix wrote—" Ush Mei-mei lifted her dark eyes to the roof of the cavernous auditorium and her voice sank into a lower and flatter tone, "—roil with spiteful energy. I immediately felt the planet's anger come against us as we descended through the thick cloud tops and into the amethyst storms below. An entire planet wroth with simply being. And now it had a new target for its rage: Us." Mathewe leaned forward to Rosindale and pointed at Ush Mei-mei. "Her eidetic memory, that. Makes her a lousy Pazaak player, but never go against her in Three-Handed Roo." He reassumed his uncanny recline. "Wins every time. I must owe Ush… half a million credits by now." Ush Mei-mei popped open one eye at him, halting her powers of recollection. She uttered something at Mathewe in her native Twi'leki, who riposted in like fashion, and what followed was a quick sparring in their contrived Basleki language. "Ellyot, Avarm, and Noth did not return or return hails," she continued after Mathewe was forced into a chuckling surrender. "The three of them took the escape pod to the planet when it appeared on the scopes. The expedition's spaceship was still two months out from Dromund Kaas, limping along on sub-light. Apparently, they thought they might find someone in-system to come out to their rescue." Ush Mei-mei turned her face to Delywn. "Cirnix again spent months by himself adrift in the derelict Sith spaceship upon his return. His personal entries from that time are rather dramatic." "Understandable," Delywn nodded. "The professor was filled with longing and despair, but also had hope about seeing homespace again." Ush Mei-mei's eyes began a rapid darting back and forth, an unconscious reaction as she mentally skimmed through Cirnix's journals. She paused, her gentle expression faltering. "They had found a building—a temple, on a rocky outcrop in the middle of the swamp, which frightened them greatly. They considered returning to the beasts and vile things of the wild—a temple that was not deserted but filled with things unholy, unsleeping, and undead. We became powerless under its lording gaze; our feet surrendered to its pull." Rosindale shivered. "Horrible." She preened the pearlescent ends of her head feathers with supple fingers. "I knew of those journals," Delwyn said, "but not what they contained. Cirnix offered me the chance to read them when I was an undergraduate in his department. I declined and was warned by others here to keep the professor at a distance. He was especially controversial then—and the University had just declined his submission for Sava. "He snuck his journals—his memoirs," Delwyn continued, "past Jedi investigators by swapping the quartz crystals in his wrist chronometer. They pulled the lenses from his glasses and the bezel from his chronometer, of course, along with confiscating everything he brought back. They stashed the return vessel away somewhere." "For a Special Weapons Program, no doubt," Mathewe echoed. "That spaceship was unremarkable in it of itself. Professor Cirnix called it a piece of antiquated junk," Ush Mei-mei replied. "The hyperdrive had broken for a fourth and final time, which is how a Republican patrol cruiser intercepted him near Ambria." "The Jedi must have dismissed the possibility that Cirnix could refine the optical comm module enough to laser something as small as that memory crystal," Ush Mei-mei told Delywn. "When they returned his possessions, he simply strapped on his chronometer and walked out past the guard." "And Sava Callomb?" Delwyn asked Ush Mei-mei. "Did the professor say what happened to him?" "We lost Benvo to the beasts of the swamp. A pair of—I didn't know this word: wampa." Ush Mei-mei said, "—attacked our camp on the first night. While we fought one with what weapons we had, its mate dragged Benvo into the undergrowth. Perhaps he was luckiest despite his screams and pleas to us which lasted a long while." Ush Mei-mei tugged on her humanoid ear, a proud genetic feature in her family line. "Next was the Sava. Callomb we lost to the deep pools before the great temple. He simply stepped from the stone bridge and never again surfaced." "By the Core!" Rosindale gasped. "And so, it becomes known," Delywn said. "Benvo was uncle to a friend of mine from grade school," Mathewe said, downtrodden. "His family was told that Benvo did not survive the expedition's crash." "True, I suppose," Delywn said, "from a certain point of view." "Trixie and I alone were allowed past the stone sentinels at the door. The others among us were left to whatever fates awaited them. We forgot them soon enough in that black place." "Who's this Trixie?" Mathewe asked Delywn. Delywn shrugged. "Maybe Beatrice Shan. I don't know, Mathewe." Ush Mei-mei continued her recitations. "We huddled together, the two of us; our arms instinctively interlocked as we went through to the interior. It is an utterly miserable place, the temple. Devoid of prominent feature, yet crowded with hot malice and cold fear. It is a place to hone, not to reflect and meditate. A place of lonesome journey and transformation. "Palpitating growls and glowing eyes shepherded us. We knew that these invisible temple guardians hungered for our living flesh; we breathed their foul breath with every step. Living stone—statues animated by sorcery—jumped to barricade wrong corridors and shut doors. Like each and all, we were all cogs winding the arcane machinery of the temple. Each tick brought us closer to a grander movement. "It seems my doomed expedition was lived by another as I try to count back the days I spent in the confines of that temple. My mind remains shut to many details from those darkest hours. Except for my dreams. But are these truths or mere visions of fantasy? "Now I am a castaway in this strange vessel amongst foreign stars. I despair for those left at the door, for those lost in crash and swamp. It is a bitter tingle on my soul. "The Sava… He alone I will hate. He bound me to my accursed destiny with his reckless folly. Goading me, pleading with me; promising me the things that in my pride and envy I desired. I will protect the temple as I may, if only as a cage to a kell dragon." "The cage protects us from the dangerous animal," Rosindale whispered. "When I emerged onto the temple roof through a trapdoor in the flagstone, to my eyes alone did Dromund Kaas appear as before. Yet I perceived this planet anew. From the high parapet, I looked down on the jungle squalor and listened to the raw sounds. I felt the brutish wind on my face. And, even as I passed judgement, a ship was brought to me." "The Core take him. That was bleak," Delywn said after a moment passed. "My mind is trying to reconcile him who I thought I knew," he nodded to the empty stage, "with the person who wrote those words." "Many years have passed since," Ush Mei-mei offered. She slowly withdrew her hand from Mathewe's and gave it a light tap. "It may be that he has shaken his shame and guilt." "What happened to Trixie?" Mathewe asked aloud. "Why was Cirnix there alone on that rooftop?" Ush Mei-mei shook her head. "He says nothing more about the temple or the others." "The cage," Rosindale said in a raspy whisper. Ush Mei-mei's eyes had taken up their odd darting behavior again and she pressed her fingertips to her temples. "Most of the rest is disjointed and interspersed with his strange maths. I could not follow many of the formulae. Phase space trajectories—" She frowned. "There are factors and functions here that lead nowhere. Indecipherable." "Quite the tale to tuck the young nippers into bed with," Mathewe said in the pause. "I won't be able to sleep tonight knowing that the Stygian Caldera is out there," Rosindale said. "Best left alone," Delywn said in a hollow voice as he absently fingered the edges of his screen reader. End Spoiler: Epilogue The following are excerpted from my notes and do not depict canonical events or characters. Professor Cirnix Van (retired) is certainly to be considered Sith or, in the least, having been once under the dominant influence of a non-corporeal Sith entity. It is assumed from collected knowledge of the ancient Sith culture, that during his time in the temple on Dromund Kaas, Cirnix succumbed to this influencer and sacrificed (or allowed to be sacrificed) his companion for personal gain. Once released from the temple, Cirnix carried out the secret mission of the Sith by disseminating its awareness beyond the confines of the Stygian Caldera. Thus, curiosity was propagated amongst a community of possible converts. Cirnix is the Coreward modernization of Kirnics. Ush Mei-mei, PhD: it is known that she never ventured to the lost planet, but became a vocal opponent to invasive Jedi exploration of the Stygian Caldera after a visit to the nebulosity in 2195 BBY. It is supposed that she visited one or more lesser Sith planets including Yavin IV and Yavin VII with a cadre of Jedi and Republican researchers. She later served two terms in the Republican Senate representing the planet Bar'leth, the planet where she had earned her doctorate in astrophysics. She was a lifelong activist for stronger anti-slavery and anti-sex trafficking laws. The Omwati, Khan Rosindale (Sziheltw'kkl'wo'caan), is presumed to have been slain by the Jedi Master Detric Ona-ban during the brief skirmish known as the Battle of Makem Te in 2196 BBY. Leighton Mathewe, PhD, died while in service to the Republic in 2195 BBY. He was post-humorously awarded the Cross of Glory. A subspecies of spotted anooba, Rikkitic maculon matheweii, was named in honor of him. Professor Delywn Rhys went missing in 2194 BBY.