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  1. In Memory of LAJ_FETT: Please share your remembrances and condolences HERE

Star Wars CLOSED Interlude Etched in an Epitaph

Discussion in 'Role Playing Forum' started by HanSolo29 , Jul 3, 2021.

  1. Lady_Belligerent

    Lady_Belligerent Queen of the RPF, SWC, C&P, and Pancakes & Waffles star 10 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jan 29, 2008
    Sybelle
    MZX32905, near Bimmiel

    She ignored Lumiya’s insult, and was glad she did once she heard the man’s comment, ”I just saw what would happen, wrote it down -"

    Sybelle instantly wanted to know more from this person who’d clearly had one hell of a vision. She had been clairvoyant, in her past life, or that’s how she’d felt at this moment.

    The last vision she had was of Airabella’s death. Sybelle had begged her daughter to stay away from her father and his family, and she had known it would lead to someone’s death. It was a fit of denial that kept her from telling Airabella why, as Sybelle refused to accept that she’d seen her own daughter’s death coming. The end result was she had to carry the burden of knowing Airabella might have lived if Sybelle had been honest with herself and her daughter.

    Her mouth moved but words failed her, she wanted to know more, but Lumiya attacked him. Sybelle couldn’t ignore the man’s pleading gestures, but how could she stop the powerful Dark Lady?

    Head lowered, she moved over to stand by Lumiya as a show of solidarity. Sybelle gave the impression she was under the Dark Lady’s command, besides there was no weapon she could use against —maybe there was. She had the Oracle stone in her hands.

    Aryan’s voice entered her awareness, it started her because he should have grabbed his son and run. "Sybelle… there is a Holocron—or an oracle? I believe it belonged to my family… it may hold the key to the Epitaph. Find it… get it away from Lumiya… destroy it, if you have to."

    Two big problems were staring at her, and the single solution was in her hands.

    Without a second thought she put every ounce of the Force behind her effort to hit Lumiya in the head with the Oracle stone. She was so focused that she decided she’d keep smashing it until it crumbled, if she could.

    Anything Sybelle could do to make her stop, and to break the wretched stone.
     
    Sinrebirth and HanSolo29 like this.
  2. HanSolo29

    HanSolo29 RPF/SWC/Fan Art Manager & Bill Pullman Connoisseur star 7 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Apr 13, 2001

    [​IMG]

    IC: Aryan Graul
    Corridors, Asteroid Habitat

    The Force swirled around Aryan in a furious tempest, depicting stark images of violence, hatred, and… death. All of those impressions and illusions tipped precariously toward the darkness, which had become a physical weight upon his shoulders. It permeated the air and slowed his progress as it interfered with both his bodily and cognitive functions. His muscles failed to cooperate, and it was difficult to draw breath. In a sense, it was as if he had wandered into a dense fog and was unable to find his way to safety.

    Fortunately, he had his son.

    Arek was alive!

    Even as he stumbled around hopelessly, he could feel the boy’s presence nearby. Aside from Sybelle, who had sacrificed her own freedom to ensure that he could escape, he was his one source of comfort and strength; a proverbial light that shone through the mental haze that afflicted him.

    Aryan reached out for that light, even as the boy enveloped him in the Force and used his abilities to usher him along.

    "The hangar," Arek muttered as he worked to steady him. "I know where it is. Lumiya, she, she teased me about it."

    For the moment, he was content to follow the younger Graul's advice. The way he spoke connoted confidence, which bolstered his own convictions. But as he opened his spirit and allowed Arek’s power to course through his veins and fill his awareness, he realized that something was very wrong. A bitter cold pervaded his senses, eliciting a chill that caused him to involuntarily shudder.

    But that was only the beginning.

    Aryan soon heard a distant whisper rising from the deep recesses of his mind, almost taunting him. With increasing volume, it developed into loud, malicious laughter that seemed to adopt a physical presence. It then encompassed what remained of Arek’s light and threatened to snuff it out, aiming to replace it with the same impenetrable darkness that he had encountered earlier.

    With an audible grunt, Aryan suddenly stopped and planted his feet in place, refusing to further accept his son’s assistance. "N–No!" he cried sharply, his face contorting with emotional pain as he grasped Arek’s arm in a white-knuckled grip. "It’s…it’s attempting to regain control—to… to corrupt you all over again. It’s the—the same lure Tavion used."

    He gasped to choke back a sob, his eyes growing wide with desperation and fear. "The Darkness… can’t you—feel it? I—I don’t want to lose you again… like… Korriban. You need to—to resist it, Arek!"

    Tightening his hold on the boy, he then tried to touch him through the Force to offer encouragement. "C—Come back to me."

    TAG: @Sinrebirth; @Lady Belligerent
     
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2022
  3. Sinrebirth

    Sinrebirth Mod-Emperor of the EUC, Lit, RPF and SWC star 10 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Nov 15, 2004
    IC: Lumiya
    Surprised

    Admittedly, she hadn't expected Sybelle to attack her -

    The Dark Lady of the Sith lifted her hand, but the Chiss woman had surprised her -

    The Oracle Stone slammed into her face, and Lumiya went down -

    The Black-Coat stepped forward, grabbed at Sybelle's wrist to prevent another blow -

    "Hm."

    He regarded the Oracle Stone.

    "His Eye. Smart. Stole that trick from me."

    The gloved hand was withdrew into his sleeve.

    "I'll handle her," he sniffed. A gesture down the stony corridor. "Your colleague needs you more."

    Aryan's panic swept into the Force.

    "It's... too much... I've used the dark side here... let them in."

    Arek was glowing, a dark miasma surrounding him.

    "I'd let him go, boy."

    A red Sith spirit.

    [​IMG]

    "My name is Darth Vectivus. You are within my abode, seized upon by the apprentice of my apprentice of my apprentice and so forth."

    His voice was monstrously cultured, and he fluttered his free hand as if orating.

    "The depths of this asteroid were infected by a mynock hive mind. Your son here has reached too far into it to help you."

    A snort.

    "He's done for."

    TAG: @HanSolo29, @Lady Belligerent
     
  4. HanSolo29

    HanSolo29 RPF/SWC/Fan Art Manager & Bill Pullman Connoisseur star 7 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Apr 13, 2001
    OOC: A agonizing (but amazing) combo with Lady_Belligerent and Sinrebirth – thank you so much, guys!! [:D]


    IC: Sybelle, Aryan, Arek, The Black-Coat, Darth Vectivus

    MZX32905, near Bimmiel

    It had shocked Sybelle that her blow directed at Lumiya actually landed, and even more shocking was that the woman had gone down from the blow. She stared at the stone in her hand, impressed that her physical attack had taken down a powerful and dangerous Dark Lady. Her arm raised to repeat the blow…

    The Black-Coat stopped Sybelle before she pounded the stone into the Dark Lady’s head a second time. He felt kind, and Sybelle wanted to ask who he was, but there was no time. Instead, she stammered out a thank you.

    Then, at the Black-Coat’s urging, Sybelle ran back to find Aryan and his son. She was still gripping the oracle stone as she rushed down the corridor, using the Force to locate her long-lost lover. Aryan’s panic had her frantic to get to him.

    Finally seeing Aryan, she practically ran him over in her rush. "We need to hurry," she held on to him and panted out the words. Then she caught sight of Arek, "what h-happened to your son?" Sybelle asked.

    The words struck Aryan like a vibroblade to the stomach. He hadn’t been aware of Sybelle’s approach, nor had he felt the weight of her hand tugging on his arm, urging him to move along. He was too horrified by the supernatural forces that had consumed Arek, shrouding his son in a red miasma of energies. It reeked of the Darkness, a sweet putrid smell that made him physically ill.

    The full extent of the situation only became apparent after Sybelle's question had penetrated his mind. It allowed him to see the wider picture, including the cloaked figure who appeared in Arek’s stead, seizing his form and pressing upon Aryan’s weaknesses in an attempt to sway him from his boy’s side.

    "No," he hissed in an almost feral growl, though it was hard to tell whether he intended it for Sybelle or the one who called himself Darth Vectivus. Either way, he struggled against his former lover’s grasp and tried to break free. If not for his enfeebled state, he would’ve surely pulled her to the ground in his panic.

    "I… I lost him twice already!" Aryan shouted with intense fervor, spittle flying from his mouth like a rabid vornskr. "I can—I can’t go through that again. Do you understand that?! You can’t claim him as your own; he’s leaving here with me! He’s… mine!"

    With one final exertion, his teeth clenched with his efforts, Aryan finally pulled free from Sybelle’s grip. He then pivoted and advanced toward Arek, throwing himself at the young man in an attempt to shake him awake from Vectivus’ influence.

    Vectivus laughed in his cultured voice and spoke aloud.

    "He can be yours... and she, too," he indicated Sybelle as she caught up. "And he, yours," he indicated Aryan from her perspective.

    "There is only the cost to be paid, of course. Something needs to be left in the place of Arek's sanity... it is the Rule of Two, after all..." A snort. "Not that I bought hard into that cosmic destiny. I was content to acquire enough power and money to sit back and watch the galaxy tick along." His ghost-shoulders shrugged. "Sith don't have to be madmen, after all."

    Arek was beginning to foam at the mouth, and he dropped to the floor, eyes rolling into his head.

    "So!" Vectivus waved a hand. "Whose sanity is being left behind?"

    Sybelle was alarmed at how fragile Aryan’s mental state now felt, she quickly placed her hands on either side of his face in an attempt to get his attention, "you must calm yourself, breathe with me, Aryan." She spoke in a firm tone, hopeful he would grasp on to her voice and cooperate. She’d been able to somewhat heal him before, until that was undone.

    "Aryan! Please listen to me," Sybelle insisted. She stopped speaking out loud and projected her words into his mind, "we will help Arek, but you cannot allow your own mind to slip into oblivion."

    She tried to give him some of her strength, Sybelle would give him her own life if it meant saving him. But for now, this was the best she could manage under these circumstances. "We must stop Arek’s torture…"

    "What if I gave you this instead?" Sybelle suddenly blurted out and showed the Oracle Stone to Vectivus. "It has to be far more valuable than any of us."

    After extinguishing his energy, Aryan collapsed beside Arek’s prostrate form, his hands instinctively pressing upon the boy’s chest in an attempt to revive him; his actions almost frantic. He barely acknowledged Vectivus’ tirade, but he understood the stakes. Considering the horrors he had witnessed on Korriban—and the ailing state of his own mental health since that time—sacrificing what remained of his sanity to save his son sounded like a fair tradeoff. It was a tempting offer, and he was about to give his consent…

    Until Sybelle appeared in his mind.

    Her hands cradled his face with a tender touch, her essence reaching deep into his psyche in an attempt to soothe him. Aryan gasped at the intrusion, though he did not resist it. On some conscious level, it provided him with clarity, and he did not want to allow that to slip away. He cherished those sentiments and held them close, unwilling to let her go.

    "You’re here," he murmured aloud, a small smile evident on his features. He hadn’t realized it before, but Sybelle had physically returned to him. Her presence here raised some pertinent questions about Lumiya's fate, but he noticed she also had the Oracle Stone in her possession—and had offered it up to Vectivus as an alternative. That provided some relief, if only momentarily.

    However, it still did not address the overarching issue, which continued to whittle away at his thoughts.

    "I… I don’t know if this is enough," Aryan pressed on, grasping Sybelle’s wrist to indicate the Oracle Stone. "Lumiya is cunning, and she likely planned for something like this to happen." He snorted at that, his face twisting into a slight scowl. "Which means we still need to pay the price… and I’m—"

    Glancing up into her face, he could not prevent the tears from flowing as he clenched her hand tightly. "I’m willing, Sybelle. I… I feel myself slipping. There are so many… images—voices inside my head, and they’re not mine. It’s like… I’m experiencing someone else’s memories. I—I can’t make sense of it. Everything is fractured, and it keeps spiraling out of my reach. It’s a waking nightmare… and I—godsdammit, Sybelle, I can’t take it anymore. I need a release… an escape. If—if I can save my son in the process, all the more reason to make this sacrifice."

    Vectivus glowered at her. "I need not to see the future..." A grin. "I'm dead."

    "Sybelle!" The Black-Coat's voice. "WHERE IS THE EYE!"

    He was actually shouting.

    "Ooooooh," Vectivus flexed a finger and a slight tug on Sybelle's fingers, on the cracked Oracle stone. "I'll take that... but I can't say that I can assuage the hive mind..." His voice glowered.

    Arek began to convulse on the floor.

    Vectivus was suddenly gentle. "You need to feed them a mind, or the boy dies; the young ones, they don't snap back... they just break."

    Sybelle wouldn’t allow Aryan to sacrifice himself, that was something she would fight against with her last breath if it became necessary.

    "No, Aryan, please listen to me," she appealed, "I cannot lose you again, please? We’ve been given another chance." She quickly leaned in and gently tasted his lips, only for a moment to enforce how strongly she felt. A barrage of memories flooded her mind in that moment when her lips met his, "I will help heal your mind," she whispered.

    The Black-Coat surprised her by wanting the stone… or eye? She really didn’t understand, and he could have it if he’d just help save Arek. There had to be something to give this phantom crazy man.

    She clutched the stone tightly, but either man would easily be able to take it if they really wanted it.

    "Wait!" Sybelle suddenly cried out, she did know who Vectivus could have. The phantom seemed to belong here, so she hoped that he wasn’t fond of the Dark Lady currently inhabiting his space.

    "Lumiya! I knocked her out a moment ago, so she probably won’t have much fight in her if you hurry." Sybelle used the Force to make her words sound as enticing as possible.

    "You should take her mind since she took over your home! Not to mention how powerful she is, wouldn’t that be satisfying for you?" She gave him her most charming smile and said, "you deserve a beautiful Dark Lady."

    At that crucial moment, Sybelle was able to break through. The kiss ignited a familiar spark that soon spread throughout Aryan’s body to warm his soul. Her words, which extended a promise to heal his mind, reinforced those sentiments as he searched his ex-lover’s face with lucid eyes. Their relationship had never reached its full potential due to circumstances beyond their control, and all he wanted was to rekindle that love.

    She was right; this was their second chance.

    But then he hesitated as reality set in, allowing doubt to push back into his mind. Despite her assurances that she could help him become well, he knew that it would still be a difficult journey… if she was able to succeed at all. Madness had already begun to expand its influence over his essence, and it would take a lot to flush it from him completely.

    Nevertheless, he would give her this time… no matter how long it lasted. Sybelle was a symbol of hope, and he latched onto that.

    And so, as she desperately sought a solution to their predicament, offering Lumyia’s mind in their stead, Aryan sank to his knees beside Arek. While he cradled the boy’s head in his arms to soothe him, he watched expectantly for Vectivus to give his verdict, his eyes almost pleading.

    Vectivus wondered. "Why would I kill the last Sith? Do you not understand the concept of lineage and tradition?" A scoff. "But I'll see what I can do." He tilted his chin. "You did give me the Left Eye, after all."

    There was a sense of release, and Arek began to come to. His eyes blinked and looked up to Aryan. "Dad?"

    He was confused.

    There was a sound of hammering boots down the hallway.

    The Black-Coat.

    Angry.

    "Aryan," Sybelle whispered anxiously, "we should run!" Her knees trembled as she tried to figure out an exit, or even which direction to run.

    She went to the opposite side of Arek and asked, "can you walk? We must hurry." Sybelle slid her arm around Arek and tried to assist him to stand. "I know you’ve got questions, but they will have to wait until we are away from here."

    Her eyes were on Aryan, his fragile mental state was heartbreaking and she desperately wanted to help him. For the moment, she could help him rescue his son, the rest would have to come later when they had time.

    It was still mind-boggling that she was at Aryan’s side again, in that moment she decided she wouldn’t lose him again.

    Vectivus vanished, and Arek reanimated in his arms.

    Sybelle's plan must've succeeded, but Aryan couldn’t quite grasp the mechanics of what had occurred… or why. All he knew was that he had his son back, and that was the only thing that mattered at that moment.

    With a sharp intake of breath, he pulled Arek close and held the boy against his chest in a firm embrace. A furious tempest of emotions raged within his soul; they resonated vibrantly within the Force, and he could no longer hide them... or perhaps he simply found no need to do so. His shoulders heaved as he let the tears flow, clearly reaching the limit of his endurance.

    He did not move from his prone position until Sybelle physically approached and tried to assist Arek to his feet. Aryan did not take kindly to the intrusion and opened his mouth to protest, his expression twisting into a menacing scowl—but then he faltered when he finally comprehended her words.

    Run.

    She was trying to help them escape from Lumiya’s lair…

    … and…

    There was something—no, someone else.

    He could feel the elusive figure approaching their position; a dark, ominous cloud that pulsed with anger. The sensation caused a chill to run down the length of his spine, and he involuntarily shivered as his skin broke out in gooseflesh.

    "He’s… coming," Aryan uttered in a hoarse whisper, turning to meet Sybelle’s gaze with haunted eyes. He then grasped her sleeve, clenching it tight before pivoting to reach for his son with the opposite hand. He intended to use them both for support—but also to accelerate their progress through the winding corridors.

    "Come on," he reiterated through clenched teeth, staggering forward at a frantic pace. "Arek… you said that you knew the way out? C—Can you guide us there safely?"

    Arek nodded, weakly. "This way, come on." He half led them, half stumbled.

    The thumping grew closer.

    Vectivus' smarmy voice.

    Now, now, calm down. They can escape, surely?

    "They don't belong here. The Twilight Timeline was supposed to be isolated, fully, complete. Balanced."

    He growled.

    "Safe."

    The words would just about reach their ears, but Arek had led them to the hangar, and as they turned, they could hear no further. There was a ship there, an Imperial shuttle, and some seemingly unmarked freighters. "That's... mine." He pointed at the shuttle. "Disciples of Ragnos, I stole it, from them."

    Sybelle gasped, "is that a good idea? They could be tracking that shuttle." She realized Arek didn’t know her, nor was there time for introductions, "I’m an old friend of your dad’s," Sybelle quickly added. "I don’t trust any faction not to have a locating device hidden on their ships, shouldn’t we grab a different one?"

    Holding tightly to Aryan, she used healing techniques to give him brief bursts of pain relief and encouragement. His mind was scarred from the torture he’d endured, but she would work more on that once they were alone, and if he agreed to it.

    As they entered the hangar, Aryan was only mildly aware of the conversation about what ship to commandeer for their escape. He heard the words and could see their lips moving, but he wasn’t comprehending their meaning. Instead, he heard someone else’s voice in his head, taunting him with its curious inflection. It had spawned from the dark presence they had passed earlier, seemingly following him through the labyrinthine corridors.

    Even now, as they passed out of range, the voice continued to haunt him. It was the only thing Aryan could focus on at that moment. In some cases, the words began to fuse together with his own thoughts, becoming a jumbled mess in his mind.

    "Twilight… balanced… twilight… timeline," he mumbled under his breath, reciting the various phrases in near incoherence. "It was complete… safe… but they don’t belong."

    Aryan suddenly planted his feet and stopped his forward progress, emboldened by the strength of Sybelle’s healing touch. His eyes darted erratically around the open space, searching for something unseen, before settling on his ex-lover’s face.

    "You brought the Foreteller," he stated quietly, finally placing the source of the voice. A hint of a smile turned up one corner of his mouth, but then it disappeared almost as quickly. Something about that notion disturbed him. Maybe it was the terrible memories it evoked from the past… or was it something else?

    And then he remembered.

    "He abandoned me on Korriban after serving as my guide," Aryan snarled in a low baritone, his fists clenching at his sides. "I… I succumbed to my injuries because of him, and when I woke up, I—" He sucked in a shuddering breath. "I was here. He—uh, he probably followed us to finish the job. We… need to hurry."

    Without realizing that Arek and Sybelle had already ruled out the shuttle, Aryan nodded toward one of the freighters. "XS series light freighter," he identified the ship on sight, a testament to his love for aviation. "It’s… an older model, but it’ll do."

    Arek nodded, weakly. "Come on, Dad. The ramp's down, we can hotwire it -"

    He hadn't really become fully cognizant of Sybelle, not yet, and the stamping feet became a thunderous storm of power, shaking the very asteroid itself.

    He.

    Was.

    COMING.


    "I’m not familiar with what hotwire is, but I trust you both," Sybelle urged them to hurry up the ramp. She was feeling encouraged by how lucid Aryan had suddenly been.

    She grasped his arm and kept murmuring encouragement to him, "your timing has always been brilliant, my love, I knew I hadn’t lost you. Be patient and I’ll help you once we’re out of here." Her voice was soft and calming, "We’ll get you and your son to a safe place."

    Maybe later she could ask who this Foreteller being was, his appearance certainly didn’t sound like a positive development.

    You’re going to be okay, Aryan, I promise.

    Once they were aboard, she stepped aside for the men to get the ship running. She touched Arek’s shoulder and asked, "please tell me how I can help?"

    Aryan slowly ascended the landing ramp at his son’s urging, still clinging to his side for support. However, Sybelle soon halted his forward progress when she brushed delicately against his arm in passing. Although he heard himself gasp at her touch, he dared not protest, especially when she began to speak in soothing tones. His very essence resonated with her words, and he could not ignore their truthfulness. It was a testament to their bond, which remained strong even after all of these years. It provided a solid foundation for him to adhere to; a sense of clarity. It ensured that he wouldn’t lose himself to his ailing mind.

    With a sad smile, Aryan took her hand with trembling fingers and gave a reassuring squeeze to acknowledge her vow. "I—thank you…I, uh—appreciate it," he stammered through his inhibition, his eyes reflecting the emotion he felt in his heart.

    While he wanted nothing more than to take her up into a passionate embrace, he ultimately turned away and hurried toward the freighter’s cockpit. In the end, he decided it would be easier to bury his vulnerabilities in his work instead of confronting them directly.

    And so, he knelt slowly beside the main console, his knees popping as he moved, causing him to grimace slightly. But despite the discomfort, it did not deter Aryan from tackling his task as he placed his fingers along the seam of the access panel and pried it open. Only then did he glance over his shoulder to regard Sybelle and Arek. "It’s… been a while since I’ve done this. You may need to guide my hand. The last thing we need is to pop a fuel line or disengage the power drive."

    He nodded with his chin toward the dashboard. "Belle, can you—k-keep an eye on those gauges? Let me know if any of them reach critical."

    Exhaling slowly, Aryan took a moment to calm his mind before reaching inside the panel.

    The gauges didn't, and the ship did splutter to a start, ever so jarring, but they were out of the hangar in a surprise instant, jostling them all -

    And then a colossal Force grip seized the ship, and if they looked back, they'd see him.

    He wasn't stretching out his arm, no, his power was such that he just stood there and willed them to stop -

    [​IMG]

    She was weary and confused.

    "Who the hell is he and why won’t he let us go?" Sybelle asked. "He let me get away from Lumiya, why is he stopping us now?"

    Ugh. She chastised herself for sounding whiny, that wasn’t usual for her. It just was too good to be true that they might have escaped.

    "I’m sorry," Sybelle said to Arek, "I let my frustration get to me."

    She looked to her former lover, "Aryan, what did you mean when you mentioned twilight and safe, but they don’t belong?"

    Aryan appeared to wither under the Foreteller’s influence, the Force rippling angrily with the disturbance. The elusive man was simply too powerful as he attempted to rip them out of the sky by sheer will alone. It was an impossible situation that felt even more hopeless with Sybelle’s probing. While he knew it wasn’t her intention, her questions fueled his anxiety, and it was only a matter of time before he spiraled.

    "That’s… the Foreteller," Aryan explained quietly, his hands clenched tightly around the control yoke in an attempt to maintain his composure. "I—I don’t know how he relates, but I saw the Twilight realm briefly. White Eyes revealed it to me… on Korriban. There were, uh… different elements from our own. Different people. I saw myself… but I wasn’t how I should be—aurgh!"

    His mind began to drift as if trying to fracture between the two realms. The sensation brought on a splitting headache that forced Aryan to close his eyes until the worst of it passed. By the time it subsided completely, he had lost his train of thought, and he was unable to recall the rest of their conversation. It was as if it had never happened at all. He sat in a stupor for several moments, merely staring out into the void as alarms echoed around the cabin. It took a while for him to focus and retain the knowledge that they were in danger, but once he snapped out of it, Aryan moved quickly.

    "Arek, activate our main thrusters, full power," he ordered firmly, his demeanor shifting as if he had never lapsed. "Push them past their capabilities if you have to. Let’s see how he likes the wash of our fusial burners."

    Arek was himself becoming more awake, and more aware, and he pressed the ship to maximum -

    The backwash flooded the hangar, upending the other ships, sending everything tumbling -

    Apart from the Black-Coat.

    He stood, imperious, a Force user of clear power, nor did he lower his arm -

    A beep and Arek grinned, a very tired smirk, but nonetheless, as he keyed the hyperdrive, pulled the controls towards him -

    "Hang on!"

    They snapped free and burrowed into hyperspace!

    The Black-Coat held his position for a while, and then, slowly, lowered it, tucking his hands behind his back and walking away as if nothing had happened…

    Sybelle hadn’t been strapped in when the Black-Coat released his hold on their ship, she’d barely had time to brace herself and grab on when Arek warned them.

    "Are we free? Did we escape?" Sybelle asked breathlessly.

    Was it possible that they’d escaped the hell they’d been trapped in? She looked over at Aryan, Sybelle was afraid to believe they might have more time together, Lumiya had been planning to keep her for Force knows why.

    They need time to talk, to catch up. But they weren’t alone. Sybelle remembered Arek was with them. "You two work well together," she gave Arek a small smile, "there was a moment that I didn’t think we would escape."

    It was awkward, and she just wasn’t sure what to say.

    Arek sagged a little as they burrowed into hyperspace, before looking back. "Yeah, um, thanks."

    He looked to his father. "Not to sound rude, but who is this?"

    Another frown. "And how long was I trapped on that asteroid?"

    There was a jolt, and the stars outside the viewport elongated as the ship jumped into hyperspace. It was a sudden reversion that took Aryan by surprise; there was no time to react or brace himself. He merely slumped back in the seat and stared breathlessly into the void.

    It wasn’t until Sybelle commented on the ease of their escape that he centered himself, her voice serving as a sort of beacon to guide him back to the present. He angled his chin to regard her out of his peripheral vision, a slight smirk tugging at the corner of his mouth. After all of these years, he desperately wanted this reprieve—to reconcile with his former lover and make up for the time they had lost together.

    In some ways, it almost didn't feel like reality…

    And sure enough, Arek swiveled around to inquire about Sybelle, shattering the moment. Aryan tensed, his mouth going dry as he tried to formulate an answer to the awkward question.

    "Uh, this is Sybelle," he replied uneasily, reaching across to tentatively touch her hand. "She’s a… very old friend of mine. We worked together during the Clone Wars." His gaze turned distant, almost wistful. "Things were simpler then… and we were much younger."

    Aryan exhaled sharply through his nose and looked away. In his current state, he completely lapsed on Arek’s second question about his time on the asteroid. It was all a blur to him, anyway.

    Sybelle stepped to Aryan’s side and gently caressed his face, and her fingers trailed across his forehead as she whispered, "it’s okay, Aryan, just breathe. Please accept my healing." His mental injuries were so extensive, but this was something Sybelle would never give up on. She gently smoothed his hair while whispering more soothing words, until she remembered Arek was listening and watching.

    "Arek, I’m sure that your father will tell you what he knows once he’s rested a little," Sybelle kept her voice calming, she didn’t want to trigger any more of Aryan’s anxiety.

    "Maybe you could determine where we’re going?" She asked the young man in hopes giving Arek a task would take his focus off of his father for a moment. "Do you know of a safe place where we could regroup? I need a peaceful place where I can try to heal your father."

    Sybelle looked back down at the man she loved and used her and Aryan’s age-old bond to lightly touch his scars. It occurred to her that only the most gentle, tender touch would work. She smoothed his hair back, allowing her fingertips to caress his scalp. They had to take him away from those who’d injured him, to a place of peace.

    "We’ll work together, my love, I promise we will find relief for you."

    The physical conversation quickly faded from Aryan’s awareness, his mind shifting to focus on the inner voice that now touched his consciousness. The words still belonged to Sybelle, but they were more personal and intimate. The emotional bond that existed between them transcended anything in the temporal realm of this reality, a sensation he hadn't experienced in a very long time. Although he didn't understand why he felt such a strong connection to this woman, he wasn't about to ignore it.

    Aryan was unable to resist her calming allure, and he soon found himself relaxing back into his own. Her gentle caress, as she weaved her fingers through his hair, was almost hypnotic. It lulled him into a passive state, which momentarily expunged his fears and concerns.

    In his current condition, Sybelle could’ve easily manipulated him to fulfill her desires, but he knew she wouldn’t take advantage of him in that way. They had a deeper understanding of each other. He could only describe it as absolute trust.

    And so, Aryan leaned back and stared directly into her eyes, a hint of a smile tugging at the corner of his lips. It was the first glimpse of the confident man she knew so long ago, and in a sense, it was his way of giving her permission to proceed.

    To reaffirm those sentiments, he reached out to her through their bond.

    "Thank you."

    Arek nodded slightly. "Fair enough." She didn't look old, but he wasn't going to comment. Maybe Pantoran's aged differently. He didn't want to be too hard on his father, so he let the second question go. "We'll be a few hours traveling in this old rig," he confirmed, absently. "I've set it up so we'll be woken by the comms."

    He gestured to the rear of the ship. "Go and rest, Dad, you've had a harder time of it than us."

    Sybelle smiled at Arek for being so considerate of his father. It made her feel slightly less uneasy over how he had ignored her inquiry of their destination. She was positive he had heard her asking.

    "I’ll get Aryan settled in so he can rest," she said to Arek, "then I’ll come back and keep you company."

    She took Aryan’s arm to help him stand, all the while giving him encouragement. "Let me help you, my dear. I spotted a lounge on the way in, and it looked very clean and comfortable."

    The lounge was in the area immediately behind the flight deck, so there was a chance Arek would listen to any conversation. "I wish we had some privacy, but we’ll find time for that later," Sybelle whispered softly. "I never gave up hope that we would see each other again," she slipped her arms around Aryan and held him close for a moment.

    Closing his eyes, he leaned heavily into her embrace, depending on her for strength. He still couldn’t fathom what had changed to allow this reunion to happen or where she had come from. As he contemplated the possibilities, he began to feel restless, the first signs of a headache emerging at the very edge of his awareness.

    "I thought… you were killed," Aryan professed with considerable effort, pain evident in his voice. He gripped tightly to her waist to physically hold her in his hands, almost to convince himself that she was truly real. "I—I’ve seen the reports. I’m sorry… I didn’t—"

    He suddenly staggered forward as his knees buckled, refusing to support his weight any longer.

    "Sit down, Aryan," once she encouraged him to sit, Sybelle went to rummage through compartments for a medical kit and some clean cloth. It had taken a great deal of self-control not to react over Aryan’s poor condition when she first saw him. He must have been wearing the same rags for years, and seeing him like this shattered her heart. She wanted to kill those responsible.

    Sybelle hurried back to him with a pan of warm water and the supplies she’d gathered. "You’ll rest so much better once we get you a little cleaner," she told him. Giving him a choice wasn’t an option, he would get a bath.

    Her hands shook as she soaked one of the washcloths in warm water, she squeezed out the excess and gently washed Aryan’s face and neck. Then without hesitation, she removed his tattered clothing, "there are some flight suits and other clothing we can go through for you after you rest." Sybelle had him lay back and she went to work with more clean cloths and fresh clean water. She worked quickly, but thoroughly, there was nothing she wouldn’t do to help restore Aryan’s health and his dignity.

    Once she was done, Sybelle wrapped him in a clean blanket that she tucked around him. "I don’t want you to get chilled, now please try to sleep," she leaned in close to his face and gently touched her lips to his. "Call out if you need me, I’ll be nearby."

    Aryan had remained silent throughout the impromptu washing, content to simply watch as Sybelle worked thoroughly over his body. He felt no shame in her presence, not even after she had removed his filthy clothes. Neither nudity nor other superficial issues were a concern. The intimate connection they shared transcended them both. It brought him peace and comfort.

    And now, as he sat perched on the edge of the cot, a blanket wrapped tightly around his torso, he lifted his hand and tenderly touched the spot where Sybelle’s lips had brushed against his. He then stared after her for several minutes, seemingly in awe. The kiss had spurred a latent spark, and he wanted to savor the moment.

    [​IMG]

    Until reality came crashing down to destroy the illusion.

    "I—no, I can’t sleep," he murmured pitifully, voicing the fears that had filled his mind. "When I close my eyes… it all comes back…"

    She stood back and gazed into Aryan’s eyes a moment before she sighed. There was no way she was going to leave his side…

    Sybelle sat down beside Aryan and quickly removed her boots. She then laid down and pressed against his side with her head resting against his shoulder. A peaceful contentment settled over her, they were young lovers again, sleeping under the stars.

    She tilted her head up to look into his eyes and said, "let me keep the demons at bay while you rest. Together we will get through this…"

    I’ll never leave you again.

    TAG: @Lady_Belligerent; @Sinrebirth
     
  5. Sinrebirth

    Sinrebirth Mod-Emperor of the EUC, Lit, RPF and SWC star 10 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Nov 15, 2004
    IC: Arek Graul
    Nouane

    The Inner Rim was considered the edge of the civilised heart of the galaxy, though any Mid Rimmer would argue differently, offended, no doubt.

    But it was closer to the Core, but not so close the authorities would notice - whatever that authority was.

    They were now years after the destruction of the Resurrection, and the Battle of Korriban.

    Aryan came to terms with that as he hooked into the local feeds at the edge of a traffic queue in the Nouane system.

    He hadn't yet woken his father or the Sybelle woman, clearly a romantic interest from the past who predated his own mother by however many years... but they would stir soon enough no doubt, what with the jolt from hyperspace; this was not a smooth ride, he rued. That slight smile was cut short by an arc of pain, and he winced. He wasn't in terrible shape, but he was cut and bruised and contused... which was another reason for choosing an Inner Rim world, as they often had an actual healthcare system.

    But this was all distraction from the truth.

    He grimaced as he regarded the date on the latest news bulletin.

    Five years.

    It was five years since the Battle of Korriban.

    Apparently, the Imperial Remnant - a narrow band of eight sectors in the Outer Rim - had just sued for peace.

    The Galactic Empire, reduced to a similar number of sectors albeit in the Core and Inner Rim - was making noises about joining the New Republic wholesale.

    The Deep Core remained the province of weakened warlords, those that had survived the Dark Empire War, avoided gassing by Natasi Daala, and had apparently not been killed during an offensive two years ago - the selfsame one which had cost the Remnant most of its Outer Rim territory.

    Now, rather than the ten thousand-odd systems that had rejoined the New Republic, most of the galaxy was rushing to become members; it was clear that the Empire was never going to regroup and turn the tide... the Galactic Civil War was, again - because it had ended after the Battle of Jakku once - was done.

    Arek had the news feed up and waited for them to join him.

    According to this queue of civilian starships and commercial flights, they had a good hour or two before they made planetfall.

    Unable to contain himself, he beeped the internal tannoy.

    TAG: @HanSolo29, @Lady_Belligerent
     
  6. HanSolo29

    HanSolo29 RPF/SWC/Fan Art Manager & Bill Pullman Connoisseur star 7 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Apr 13, 2001
    OOC: The following is an amazing combo with Lady B and Sinrebirth – thank you so much to you both!! It's always a pleasure! [:D]

    IC: Sybelle, Aryan Graul, and Arek Graul
    Freighter, approaching Nouane

    It happened so quickly.

    Once Sybelle’s body relaxed against Aryan, she couldn’t resist closing her eyes and laying her cheek against his bare skin. She whispered to him, just as they’d done countless times a lifetime ago. It didn’t surprise her how easy it was to be comfortable and at peace with him. "I look forward to hearing about the many adventures you’ve had," her voice husky from her own fatigue. "I want to bore you to tears with my searches for rare botanical finds, and the many antiquities I’ve found. We have so much to catch up on, my dear."

    Sybelle gave in to the exhaustion from escaping Lumiya, and the other moments that there hadn’t been time to fully process yet. She had planned on going back to speak to Arek, but Aryan was her priority and he needed her. After sighing softly, Sybelle slept.

    It was bliss.

    Imagine being away from your home—for years. You’d spent two-thirds of your life away from your own bed, from what is familiar to you, from who you love. Now you’ve returned and it’s the best feeling ever.

    Her eyes opened when the ship shuddered, Sybelle recognized it as a sign they had dropped out of hyperspace, yet she didn’t move yet. Surely they deserved a few more minutes alone?

    No. She shook a little stifling a laugh when an obnoxious tone came over the shipwide comms. Sybelle guessed it was Arek’s notion of a morning wake-up comm. She lazily stretched her arm up to caress Aryan’s shoulder asking, "did you get any rest?"

    "The nightmares never came."

    That was Aryan’s first waking thought as he rolled over and opened his eyes, his actions spurred by Sybelle’s delicate touch. He wasn’t sure if he had conveyed those sentiments to her via their bond, but even if he hadn’t, she could likely identify the obvious relief that instantly washed over his features. He couldn’t recall the last time he had slept more than an hour without becoming ensnared by his night terrors.

    It was liberating… and perhaps even a little surreal.

    Sybelle was alive.

    Aryan physically shuddered at that realization, instinctively pressing closer into her embrace. He did not want to leave her side; he relished her warmth and the scent of her skin. It brought back so many precious memories, and he could not allow them to slip away again.

    "What time is it?" he finally uttered aloud, his voice hoarse from sleep and disuse. He squinted into the gloom in an effort to locate the chrono, which he assumed was the source of the persistent droning. It never occurred to him that Arek had activated the internal comm to summon them. It was proof that he was still disoriented and vulnerable, his mind impressionable.

    "Godsdammit, I’m going to smash that thing into the wall when I find it…" he grumbled under his breath, clearly irritated as he reached up to brush his unruly hair from his eyes.

    As he rose slowly to his hands and knees, the blanket covering his nude form unwittingly slipped from his torso.

    Because Aryan couldn't find it, Arek came to the room -

    And blushed, hard.

    "DAD!"

    By the goddess, Sybelle thought, had no one ever taught Arek to knock first? She’d finally had a chance to gaze upon the masculine form of her lover au naturel, and Arek picked that moment to interrupt. The feelings of desire that she’d kept locked away during their time apart now made her ache to connect with Aryan once again on an intimate level. Why should they feel as if they were behaving improperly?

    With a heavy sigh, Sybelle sat up saying, "really Arek? Surely there’s no need to shame your father for his nudity." She wrapped the blanket around Aryan and urged him to sit down.

    "He was finally able to rest, and I’m sure my cleaning him up a little helped make that possible." She pointed to a pile she’d tossed aside hours ago, "the clothes he was wearing should be burned, I’m hoping we can find something clean, and some proper footwear." Sybelle covered her own embarrassment, of being caught with a bare Aryan, by talking entirely too much.

    "I’m going to grab a pan of warm water to wash your face and hair again," Sybelle placed her hand on Aryan’s cheek and caressed his face, "that witch Lumiya should be tortured for the condition she kept you in," she said softly to Aryan.

    Realizing she’d forgotten the alarm, Sybelle asked Arek, "what was the alarm for? Are we being followed?"

    It hadn’t occurred to Aryan why Arek had scolded him until Sybelle reached around with the blanket and encouraged him to sit back down on the bed. He dutifully obeyed, but his mind was too scattered with wayward thoughts, which made it almost impossible to concentrate. The line between delusion and reality had become razor-thin, so it was no wonder that he never noticed that he was naked.

    Now that he was aware of his situation, he leaned forward and held the blanket closed in a fist near his neck to protect his dignity. His eyes remained downcast, and he did not react to Sybelle’s comment when she pointed out the alarm. In his memory, the sound had completely faded into a distant white noise, and he forgot all about it.

    However, Sybelle’s gentle caress and soothing words soon brought him a degree of comfort.

    Closing his eyes against her touch, Aryan instinctively reached up to grab the hand resting on his cheek. "I’d like that," he responded softly to her offer to clean him up, his chin lifting to meet her gaze. "Maybe throw in a haircut and shave… if, uh… that’s possible. I—I don’t know what’s available in our inventory. Hell, we… we may not even be able to find me clothes…"

    He trailed off into a harsh chuckle before the haunted look returned to his eyes. "I… I don’t want to go back there," he blurted suddenly, recalling the second part of her statement. While he didn’t specify the details, it was clear that he was referring to Lumiya. "I don’t want to remember."

    Arek kept his hand on his eyes. "Yeah, yeah, naked Dad is always what I want to see after years."

    He sighed. "We’re at Nouane, they’re just wanting to know what we’re doing here. It’s the closest spot in the Inner Rim…" Arek paused. "We need to set down here, so we can regroup… and get off-world."

    He swallowed. "I don’t think we should try and find Mum yet." Another indecipherable expression to Arek’s face. "Nor the kids."

    Sybelle’s eyes cast down as Arek mentioned his mother… Lyz Graul.

    "Nouane," Sybelle said softly, "can we use fake identities, parents and their son…" She choked to cover the building sob and put her hand up to indicate she needed a moment.

    She cleared her throat and spoke hoarsely, "we could pass ourselves off as a family traveling, it’s usually best to keep things simple." Sybelle picked up her boots and started pulling them on as she spoke, "your father needs nutrition, I’m sure you can easily locate that. I shall make a list of very specific proteins, vitamins, and lipids." It was clear she intended for Arek to make that happen, as she had no intention of leaving Aryan’s side. "He is severely malnourished, and it will be a slow process for him to be able to tolerate solid food. I have experience with this, and he will feel much stronger once we get that process started."

    Having a plan steadied Sybelle, she placed her hand on Aryan’s cheek again, and comforted him, "you don’t have to remember those details," she whispered, "it’s over now, we are far away from that wretched woman, and I’m going to help you." She gently adjusted the blanket again, to protect Aryan’s modesty and so Arek wouldn’t mention his father’s state of undress again. Really, what was the big deal? Arek was being such a prude.

    "I plan on trimming your hair, and you’ll get a hot bath," Sybelle promised as she gazed into Aryan’s eyes, "you know how I am when I’m determined." She leaned over and gently kissed his forehead, "there’s plenty of clean bedding in the cabinets, so if I can’t locate clothing we will make do until Arek gathers the supplies we need. Isn’t that right, Arek?" Sybelle looked back, giving Arek a look that said she would get her way.

    It was becoming clear that her time with Aryan could be limited, Sybelle would make the most of it by nursing him, and getting him healthier before Lyz made her leave. There wasn’t a moment to spare by leaving him alone while she shopped, not while Arek could be sent.

    Aryan closed his eyes and leaned into her embrace, concentrating on the sound of her voice. He tried to take solace in her words and the steps she had taken to improve his condition, however, it was becoming increasingly more difficult to maintain his focus. No matter how hard he tried to relax—and forget—it was impossible to dismiss the information Arek had shared with them.

    Nouane.

    The charts listed it as another planet located within the Inner Rim, but it apparently had a greater significance. It needled at the back of Aryan’s mind, like an itch that he could not satisfy. This sensation soon expanded and conjured up a myriad of images and memories, some of which were clearly not his own.

    He saw an antiquated clock, a great battle that sent ash and lightning across the sky, and a grand chasm, a wound of some sort, which ran the length of the planet’s surface…

    Aryan suddenly felt cold, and he began to shiver uncontrollably in Sybelle’s grip. With an audible gasp, he reached frantically for her shoulders and pulled her close, clenching the fabric of her shirt within his fists.

    "It won’t ever stop," he said in a harsh whisper, his words barely perceptible between the chattering of his teeth. "Lumiya—she’s gone, but… everything else remains… the–the things I see and hear… and feel." He exhaled sharply as if to center himself, and then released his hold on Sybelle’s shoulder to point shakily toward the front of the shuttle. "Something… t–terrible happened here."

    His words filled the silence for a moment before he turned to regard Arek with a stern expression. "Why can’t we go home?" he asked in a low baritone, still shuddering from the vision he had witnessed. "Are we a… danger to Mom and the kids?"

    "I don't really want to track trouble to them, no," Arek said, firmly, resisting the stern expression. "I'm not saying we can't go home, but if we go straight there surely someone will notice."

    He looked to Sybelle for support. "I can say we're tourists? I found some creds stashed aboard while you slept. It's like a getaway ship..." He waved a package. "Even includes fake IDs."

    She let out a breath she’d been holding since Aryan asked about returning to his home. To Lyz.

    "That’s an excellent plan, Arek," Sybelle agreed, backing him up. "You cannot risk putting your family at risk," she managed to add.

    "I’ll work on getting your father presentable while you take us in," she told Arek in a subdued voice. "Let’s go see what is in the extra cabins, there has to be some clothing," she touched Aryan’s arm to see if he felt up to going along with her. It would be nice if they were out of earshot from Arek for a while.

    "You have a choice of a sanistream or a hot bath," she offered, hoping he would like making a decision on something.

    It was evident from Aryan’s scowl that he didn’t approve of Arek’s reply, particularly when the boy used a firm tone to emphasize his point. He didn’t appreciate being reprimanded like a small child, as if he didn’t understand the implications. He understood perfectly. It was this planet and the circumstances that surrounded their escape; it was the feeling that something terrible would happen if they stayed here…

    Aryan's agitation became more apparent as he rose slowly to his feet at Sybelle's urging. He barely acknowledged her comment, brushing it off with a truncated answer.

    "No sanistream," he mumbled under his breath, his gaze still focused on Arek. He neglected to mention that her promise to bathe him was the reason for his decision.

    Sybelle kept steady pressure on his arm to keep his attention on her while she worked on distracting Aryan from the situation. "Do you remember when we borrowed that Imp captain’s luggage?" Sybelle laughed softly thinking about some of their antics from long ago. "I guess the joke was on us since his bag didn’t have clothing like we’d hoped, just bundles of striped underwear." Now she genuinely laughed remembering their reactions. "A pair of those would’ve come in handy a few minutes ago when Arek burst in on us and you were dangling out there." She burst into full-on giggles and took him into her arms saying, "oh Aryan, I’ve missed you so much."

    Arek sketched a salute and headed off.

    Clothes-wise, most of it catered to a woman, but there were a few nondescript business suits that were genderless, all but.

    For the moment, Sybelle succeeded in distracting Aryan.

    He effectively lost interest in Arek’s dealings and allowed his former lover to hold him in her embrace. The warmth radiating from her body provided stability and comfort, and he even closed his eyes as he rested his chin against her shoulder.

    However, his contentment ended there. He found that he was unable to recall the events surrounding Sybelle’s story due to his jumbled thoughts. The moment existed in his past, and he had apparently lived through it, but the details remained locked behind a perpetual haze. It was an internal struggle that gave rise to his anxiety, though he refused to express it outwardly. Instead, he feigned laughter in an attempt to put her at ease.

    Unfortunately, he probably wasn’t very convincing, which was why he ultimately disengaged from her grip once they reached the private bunk. He then quickly busied himself with the selection of clothes along the adjacent wall, one hand holding the blanket precariously around his waist.

    "This… isn’t going to w–work," Aryan murmured as he shoved aside a few formal garments, a frown creasing his brow. "It’s all tailored for women."

    Sure enough, the closet contained a myriad of dresses and business suits that were several sizes too small for his frame. It was an embarrassment; there was no way he would settle for this. He would rather continue to stomp around in the nude.

    "It looks like we’ll have to im–improvise with the… bed sheets," he surmised with a sigh, pivoting on his heel to regard Sybelle out of the corner of his eye. "At least until we can find some p–proper clothes."

    She wanted to help Aryan calm down, and she was relieved when he had declined a quick sanistream. There was a decent tub in the facilities, and it appeared clean, so he would get a relaxing bath.

    "You’re going to get chilled," Sybelle said softly and took the blanket from Aryan’s grip. She eased it upward over his shoulders and held it closed. "Let me figure out clothes, okay? Now come on and let’s get you clean," she took over and led him into the bathroom and turned on the water taps. "Sit here," she pulled over a small bench. Sybelle helped herself from the cabinet stocked with soap and towels, which she stacked near the tub.

    Following the motions of preparing for the bath helped Sybelle clear her mind, she needed to figure out how to get through to Aryan. She would help him get back to his wife, if that’s what he truly wanted, even if it wouldn't be ideal. Lyz wouldn’t take care of him in this state, she was a cold woman who only cared about herself.

    She could tell he hadn’t remembered when they had stolen luggage from an Imperial captain, maybe he didn’t recall how close they had been, she needed to see what else was taken from him.

    "As promised," Sybelle spoke up and extended her arms, "a hot bath." She took his arm and tossed the blanket out of the way, "in you go." She held his arm while he settled into the water.

    Next, she folded a towel for him to use as a pillow to cushion his head against the edge of the tub.

    Once she was sure he was comfortable, Sybelle got on her knees and picked up the soap and washcloth. She talked to him as she leaned over to slowly begin washing his body, "I don’t want you to take this the wrong way, but you do remember who I am, right?" Her fingers were massaging his ankles and calves as she washed his legs. "I don’t mean knowing my name, I mean our relationship in the past."

    In conjunction with Sybelle's gentle caress, the warm bath water was soothing, almost hypnotic. It was easy to allow his body to fully relax and fall away beneath her touch. In fact, if it hadn't been for the vexing question about his memory, it might've even lulled him to sleep.

    For a long moment, Aryan could only stare ahead at the mottled pattern on the adjacent wall, the soft lapping of the water serving as a focal point to help him center his mind. Despite her urging to the contrary, the question itself stung. Her suggestion that he was not able to recall the intimate details of their relationship seemed absurd to him. It had been an integral part of his life—

    And yet…

    "I know," he answered defiantly, pushing through the mental haze that threatened to obscure his memory. With a sharp intake of breath, Aryan inclined his chin to meet her watchful gaze, one hand instinctively gripping the side of the tub as if that would help him focus.

    "I… I feel it inside here." He tentatively lifted his free hand to touch his bare chest. "I—I’m not sure how to describe it, but it’s always been there. For a long time… it was hollow… when I thought you—you were dead. But… now? It’s… back… strong."

    He paused as a small fragment of the past suddenly flitted across his awareness, prompting him to instantly latch onto it. He couldn’t afford to have it slip away again.

    "I remember… the open pasture… and the stars," he murmured in a wistful tone, a soft smile touching his lips. "W–We spent a lot of time out there."

    Sybelle gasped softly, "yes! The stars were so beautiful," she remembered those nights well. She reached over to drain some of the water out to make room for more hot water, she didn’t want Aryan to get chilled.

    She sighed and allowed the warm water to rush over her hands as it filled the tub again. "It was definitely the most romantic place I’ve ever been," Sybelle smiled over the sweet memory. He does remember!

    Her heart was pounding as she fought to control her emotions again. "You were so gentle and careful," her voice was soft again while she washed Aryan’s face. Her face was so close to his that he should be able to feel her breath as she spoke.

    "I had never been with anyone, or did you suspect that at the time?" She asked.

    Aryan parted his lips and released a wavering sigh, the closeness of her body stimulating him in ways that he had not experienced in a very long time. At this proximity, he could detect the scent of her flesh and appreciate the gentle caress of her breath upon his cheek. It awakened his zeal and exemplified his affection for this woman.

    "I—I only assumed," he replied in a husky baritone, instinctively shifting against his body’s natural impulses. He made no attempt to conceal the physical manifestation of his desire. "You were my first…"

    He had no difficulty recalling that particular memory about his past. It was a breakthrough he barely acknowledged as he leaned in to satisfy his natural inclinations, regardless of his marital status with Lyz. Nothing else mattered at that moment. He and Sybelle were the only ones there.

    Reaching up to cup her face with his hands, Aryan slowly began to pull her toward the water before he captured her lips in a passionate kiss.

    Sybelle couldn’t have resisted him if she’d tried, and she allowed him to pull her into the blissfully warm water. She welcomed his advances, it had to be Aryan’s choice since he still had an attachment to someone else, yet he made it clear he still wanted Sybelle.

    Aryan’s revelation about his own innocence fueled her own need to reconnect with him physically and emotionally. She hadn’t known, and sharing that sentimental memory gave Sybelle an impression of a puzzle piece slipping into place. There’d been a mental click between them as a connection that had been dimmed was now a little brighter.

    With each touch, there was an awakening. The ache of being apart for so long was being soothed, and even healed. Aryan’s kiss was the balm Sybelle’s soul had yearned for.

    One day maybe she’d tell Aryan that there had never been anyone else, she’d been waiting for him, and it had been worth the wait.

    The ship rumbled, and Arek spoke up over the comms. "We've been given a landing permit."

    "Mr. and Mrs. Farglblag, traveling with their son," he said, mirth to his voice. "Can you make sure you're dressed by the time we land?"

    He clicked off, with their awful names to boot.

    All things considered, they honored Arek’s request. They were no longer sitting in the nude… not entirely.

    It was impossible to say how much time had passed, but in the wake of their passion, two blankets hung between them to preserve their modesty and to savor the warmth they had shared together. The release was a culmination of pent-up emotion; the renewal of their love and affection. Their intimate bond, which had lain dormant for decades, seemed to pulse once again. Slow, steady… but growing in vitality.

    While he sat on the edge of the cot, leaning forward so Sybelle could cut his hair with ease, Aryan couldn't help but think of their time together. It had been spontaneous, intense, and wonderful. He knew it sounded sappy, and yet there was no other way to describe it.

    "I think I still love you, Mrs. Farglblag," he blurted suddenly, an impish smirk pulling at the corner of his mouth at the use of her fake name.

    Taking a moment to reflect on his words, he found solace in watching the scattered tufts of hair drop silently to the floor with each snip of the scissors. He didn’t seem to notice that time and trauma had turned his locks predominantly gray. It was superficial at this point; he was too engrossed in the moment.

    "This, uh—it’s exactly what I needed," Aryan reiterated with a contented sigh.

    Warmth blossomed in her chest over Aryan’s comments. He sounded more like her Aryan Graul whom she had been waiting for. To Sybelle, the light-hearted quip was an encouraging sign that Aryan could heal.

    Her eyes shifted to the bathtub, and the heaps of towels strewn around the floor. Their passionate reunion was something right out of her wildest dreams.

    "Mhmm," Sybelle sighed, "I certainly needed this," she agreed, focusing on his hair again. She used her fingers to fluff and comb back the section of hair she’d just trimmed. Sybelle leaned back a little so she could check that her cuts were even. Once she was satisfied that she’d been accurate, she leaned down and kissed him thoroughly. "My dear, Mr. Farglblag," Sybelle said in a husky voice, "my love for you has grown stronger over time." She touched her forehead to his as she spoke, "I love you, Aryan."

    Once she set the scissors aside, Sybelle stood between Aryan’s knees while she used a towel to dry his hair. She hadn’t stopped smiling since Aryan had pulled her into the water, but they did have a few things to discuss. "We should decide how to handle things with Arek," she reluctantly said. "I believe he will know we are a bit more than old friends, and it might be easier to just be honest. He is an adult, do you think he would understand?"

    For a moment, Aryan didn’t appear to hear her—or maybe he merely didn’t care to answer. Either way, he was too engrossed in the strength of Sybelle’s presence. As her hands worked soothingly over his scalp to dry his hair, it was easy to relax back into the rhythm of her gentle caress. It was almost hypnotic.

    But perhaps the most appealing aspect was the view he had of her tantalizing form. She was very close; her body pressed firmly against the inside of his thighs. With each subtle movement, the blanket shifted about her shoulders, allowing him a glimpse of her exposed torso. It certainly didn’t leave much to the imagination, and he found himself unable to divert his eyes.

    Ultimately, he reached out to touch her flesh, his fingers trailing between her breasts and down the length of her stomach until he cradled her waist in his hands. He was still exploring, trying to convince himself that she was real.

    "I–I hurt him… a long time ago," Aryan murmured quietly, his voice barely above a whisper. "Both of them. There was… someone else, and I… betrayed their trust. I do–don’t know if he’ll ever understand. Not after that. To him, Lyz is his mother, but—"

    Aryan finally glanced up to meet her gaze, the anguish evident in his eyes. "You were there first, Sybelle. I–I never stopped thinking about you—I, uh… I love you. Always have."

    He shook his head, seemingly out of exasperation. "I–I don’t even know where Lyz is… why she never came."

    "Aryan," Sybelle gasped softly and pulled him against her chest. "You and I are soul mates," she said softly, "Lyz didn’t come help you because she was never with you for love."

    She stroked his hair as she cradled his head, "They’ve tried to keep you and I apart, but there are forces more powerful than people, and we were meant for each other, my dear."

    Sybelle touched his chin and tilted his head up so she could look into his eyes. "We don’t have to talk to Arek if you aren’t ready, I won’t rush you." She smiled and touched her lips to his before saying, "but he’s not blind, and I’m going to be with you for as long as I’m able." She playfully nipped at his lower lip, "I’ve come to heal you, Aryan, and you have no choice but to allow it."

    "I appreciate, uh—thank you," Aryan uttered with genuine conviction, a soft sigh punctuating his emotions. "I don’t—maybe it…umm, I’d like to wait before approaching Arek. Unless he—he comes to us. I still don’t understand how this all ties together. It’s… a lot."

    A hint of a smile cracked his dismal expression before he instinctively reciprocated her kiss, though he didn’t stay engaged for long. He found himself distracted by her revelation, her words causing a restive stirring in his chest. It felt as if his heart would leap free, but he knew it went much deeper than that. He couldn’t quite articulate what was happening, and it made him falter.

    His hands suddenly gripped her forearms as he pulled away slightly, his face reflecting contemplation. "Soul mates," he repeated quietly, sampling the word and committing it to memory. He decided that it seemed to adequately describe the strange sensations he was experiencing.

    "I—I think I know," Aryan continued in the same muffled tones. "I feel it… in here…"

    He gently lifted her hand and placed it against his chest.

    "Yes," Sybelle whispered and caressed his chest. She felt his heart beating against her palm and then felt her own heart fall into rhythm with Aryan’s, two hearts synchronized. With her free hand, Sybelle took his hand and placed it over her own heart.

    "I feel it too," she said in wonderment. If only she could stop time, if only they would have known at the time.

    Aryan was much too fragile to know the lengths Norin went to, and that was okay, Sybelle knew there were details that would be too much for him. It was still too much for her, and she’d somehow survived it.

    It had taken years for Sybelle to stop feeling guilty, and for being naive enough to believe that Lyz would tell Aryan that she had to come to him. Norin and Lyz had taken everything from her, but she had to set aside that anger. Aryan needed her, and this time she would fight to be at his side.

    Sybelle picked the scissors up and trimmed a section of Aryan’s beard that needed evening. "I’m not a stylist," she said, "but I do believe I did a decent job, and you look quite handsome."

    She leaned back a little to look him over. "I might be a little biased though," Sybelle said smiling.

    Aryan’s hand remained over Sybelle’s heart as he canted his head and met her gaze. The synchronized rhythm of their spirits had brought them together, and he found himself unable to completely pull away. He was too enthralled by the whole experience. It was as if they existed as one in perfect harmony, and as a result, he wanted to forever relish this moment.

    The grin that eventually spread over his features echoed those sentiments—but he knew it was also partly due to her flattery. He didn’t feel like he deserved it, prompting him to issue an incredulous scoff. "That’s… debatable," he murmured with a hint of embarrassment. "I—I probably resemble something between… a mangy hound and a wild vornskr…"

    Exhaling softly, he adopted a more thoughtful expression as he reached up and raked his fingers through his beard. Having only noticed his facial hair for the first time, he was surprised at how thick it had become. "You, uh… you really think I–I should keep it?"

    He then glanced down at his state of undress and frowned.

    "Erm… w–we should probably also… address the clothes issue before we head out."

    They were about to arrive, the shuttle hitting the turbulence of re-entry.

    Here they were, in a ship stolen from a Dark Lord of the Sith, seeking a way forward.

    What would happen next?

    Time would tell, but they were, for the moment...

    Together.

    TAG: @Lady_Belligerent; @Sinrebirth
     
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  7. Sinrebirth

    Sinrebirth Mod-Emperor of the EUC, Lit, RPF and SWC star 10 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Nov 15, 2004
    IC: Cuf
    Nouane

    It hadn't been easy to get ahead of this, but he'd been trying to track the Mistress, and so here he was.

    Not that he'd managed to meet her.

    It was frustrating, and Jax had made it hard enough by dying.

    A slight snort, human style, nehind his hooded visage. Replacing his mask, he swept onto the concourse and towards her ship.

    Well, he suspected it was her ship.

    And from that ship stepped down Arek Graul, leading Aryan and Sybelle.

    The starport was a typical one, not especially built-up, with the traditional array of humans, Twi'lek, Rodians and Duros working the turnstyles and droids acting as valets or muscle, depending how your meeting went. A single Pantoran stood out as a rarer sentient to see out and about, but most eyes was on the albino man and woman and child, clearly Echani by descent.

    Which made the cloaked man standing outside the processing area and staring at them rather obvious.

    The Force, however, it was completely silent.

    No danger, not even the faintest sense of curiosity resonated from the man.

    He was a void, silent in ways that was noticeable.

    A skinny droid, a reconditioned B1, stepped to Arek. "Passports please."

    Arek handed it over wordlessly, eyeing his father.

    TAG: @HanSolo29, @Lady_Belligerent
     
  8. HanSolo29

    HanSolo29 RPF/SWC/Fan Art Manager & Bill Pullman Connoisseur star 7 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Apr 13, 2001
    OOC: The following is a combo with Lady_B and Sinrebirth – thank you so much!! It's always a blast! [:D]


    IC: Sybelle, Aryan Graul, Arek Graul, and a Mystery Man
    Spaceport, Nouane

    Sybelle held on to Aryan’s arm as they left the ship, and she didn’t let go as they progressed to a security checkpoint. She let Arek take the lead and just tried to blend in. It was an unfamiliar place, and she was worried about Aryan’s earlier reaction to this location.

    She’d seen the odd stranger watching. He could be just another traveler that was watching the passersby, except for the silence. He had no presence in the Force, it was curious, but he felt relatively harmless.

    Sybelle slid her hand affectionately down Aryan’s arm to nest her hand in his, and she leaned close and whispered softly, "you’re doing so well, my love."

    Arek watched them and whispered. "Are you okay, Dad?"

    Aryan couldn’t bring himself to answer. If he tried to speak, his voice would likely betray him and validate his fears. Now that they had arrived on the surface of Nouane, he could clearly feel the corruption that festered at the heart of this world. It was like a cancer slowly spreading outward to consume everything in its path, personified by a wave of Darkness with blackened tendrils.

    It was part of the vision he had seen; the nightmare that continued to haunt every waking moment. There was no shaking the terrible images from his mind. His proximity to the capital city only made them more vivid.

    As he glanced out over the veranda, he did not see the cloaked interloper watching them from the shadows, nor did he initially hear the prompting of the spindly service droid to hand over their credentials at the checkpoint.

    Instead, he saw the city’s destruction, its skeletal remains bathed in gray twilight. The Force seemed to scream in response to the desolation, conjuring a pair of winged creatures that swept into the air above—a Griffin of White and a Bat of Black.

    [​IMG]

    "I stand before you as the Destructor," Aryan rasped in a trance-like state, reciting an incantation from a distant realm. "Prophesied to destroy the Protectors… the Force is Changed… monsters released from their embrace … I am the heir of your failures… and your death!"

    The final word jolted Aryan from his reverie, eliciting a strangled cry from his throat. A sharp gasp followed as he tried to choke back his emotions, his eyes wild.

    But then he felt the weight of his lover's hand on his own, warmth emanating from her grasp. It helped provide a solid foundation, and he used that as an anchor to restore his composure.

    Inclining his chin, he finally glanced into Sybelle’s eyes and parted his lips to utter a silent apology. He then gestured for her to reach into his jacket pocket and retrieve his credentials for the insistent droid. Under the circumstances, he didn’t want her to see how badly he was trembling.

    The droid hesitated and looked from Aryan to Sybelle and Arek.

    The son fumbled with the ident chip and handed it over.

    "Reason for your visit?" It repeated, clearly concerned. Arek fumbled on his tongue and looked at Sybelle.

    "I can answer that," Sybelle said, "my family and I are here on a holiday to visit the botanical gardens." She gently squeezed Aryan’s arm reassuringly, "I’m an amateur botanist, so this is very exciting for me."

    She looked expectantly at the droid for permission to proceed, "we’re scheduled for a lecture on herbs in just under an hour, so if you’re done we will get on our way."

    Her grip on Aryan was still firm as she led him past the droid, leaving Arek to deal with getting their credentials back. Sybelle kept her focus on Aryan and moved him on so they could get past security. "I really hope I’ll be able to obtain some lemon balm cuttings," she chatted amicably, "it’s a very relaxing herb, and would be perfect for your therapeutic baths."

    Arek bit his lip. "Well, that's not the only reason," he said, regret stringing his voice. He stepped closer to the droid to confide in him, but fully aware that he would be overheard. "My father, he needs medical care for his... episodes, and my step-mother here and I are pretending to be visiting for botanical reasons."

    The droid looked from Arek to Sybelle to Aryan. Even the cybernetic lifeform had tact modules and nodded its head. "Quite understood." It waved the identichips over a scanner, and promptly returned them to Arek. "You are cleared for your... botany adventures."

    Meanwhile, their observer on the other side of the customs desks was waving, wearing a very bright shirt and shorts, evidently. A tourist?

    For a long moment, Aryan stood in stunned silence, his mouth working wordlessly. Sybelle’s interpretation of the situation was certainly alarming, and it left him feeling anxious. On one hand, he understood why she had concocted a lurid tale about their desire to visit the botanical gardens—it was a ploy to bypass the droid’s security protocols—but it didn’t alleviate his concerns over the reality of his condition. If anything, it only confirmed his suspicions about his fragile state of mind, especially when he overheard Arek’s exchange with the automaton.

    Aryan pressed his lips into a thin line and lowered his gaze, suddenly finding the worn and grotty pavement fascinating. The intricate patterns scratched into its surface provided him with a distraction so that he could think and consider his son’s words.

    He recognized that he wasn’t well, both mentally and physically. He had lapsed again, a direct response to the darkness that surrounded this planet. While he couldn’t recall how he had behaved for the duration of his episode—or what he had said—he could tell from the faces of those nearby that he had conducted himself in a disturbing manner.

    In that sense, Arek was right; he needed help.

    But before he could turn to acknowledge his son, he noticed a peculiar man standing on the far side of the promenade. He fit the traditional stereotype of an off-world tourist with his garish outfit and unsuspecting attitude. As their eyes met, the stranger lifted a hand and offered a lazy wave.

    Aryan, in his delirium, returned the gesture with a deadpan expression.

    "S–Someone… found us," he uttered to Sybelle in a slurred whisper, his feet shuffling along the ground as she pulled him past the checkpoint. He tightened his grip on her arm and resisted with a small tug, hoping to grab her attention and guide her gaze toward the source of his concern. "He’s over there. I, uh… I think he’s been watching us since we arrived."

    Sybelle sighed and nodded, she’d been intentionally ignoring that person. It was still unnerving how that person was a total void in the Force. She didn’t want to unnecessarily cause Aryan any anxiety, which had her torn at how to address the concern with him. "I noticed that too," she answered, watching Aryan closely as she led him on. "Try not to look at him, my dear, he’s probably one of those aggressive tour guides looking for an easy mark."

    Her pace was slow and even, she didn’t want to look like Aryan was being dragged along, but she knew he’d heard Arek’s comments. A conversation would be necessary later, such comments could cause his father to be more anxious if he heard them. She wanted to keep him calm, especially in public.

    "Do you have a destination in mind?" Sybelle asked Arek. "I’ve got a short list of supplies I need, aside from clothing for Aryan. It might be best if we stick together for now," she added and tilted her head in the direction of the stranger.

    Arek nodded, still a bit shaken from the encounter with the customs droid but settling. "Stick together, or run interference?"

    Suddenly, their ship exploded, the shockwave hurling them to the permacrete and ripping apart the spaceport.

    Lumiya's reach was chasing them.

    The brightly-coloured man was bounding over as they came to, a bloody gash to his own forehead. "Come, come, we need to get you out of danger, Sybelle." He was addressing her, not Aryan and Arek.

    Disoriented and in obvious pain, Aryan awoke from his unconscious state. He immediately became aware of a wet sensation on the left side of his face, which he could only assume was blood from a head wound he had sustained. A quick probe with his fingers confirmed this fact, eliciting a wince. What he didn’t realize was that the trail of red crimson continued down his neck to soak the collar of his shirt.

    It was impossible to tell how bad it was without a reflective surface to examine the injury, but that all seemed insignificant at the moment; not when he considered the reason for his predicament and the aftermath of such an incident.

    There had been an explosion. That much was clear by the incessant ringing in his ears and the tattered remains of the spaceport itself. Smoke and soot wafted through the air, filling his lungs and forcing him to devolve into a coughing fit. He could see flames winking in and out of existence through the thick haze, while beings ran frantically across his vision like fleeting shadows. Their mouths were agape, likely shouting orders or screaming in their agony, though no sound reached his ears except for that constant, high-pitched whine.

    But despite the mayhem, all he could think about was Sybelle and Arek. Were they hurt? Did they need assistance?

    Unfortunately, his fears became a reality when he rolled over onto his side and noticed the same tourist from earlier, hurtling through the chaos toward a lone figure laying nearby. Even from this distance, Aryan recognized the cerulean hue of her skin and the allure of her distinctive features.

    Sybelle.

    The man was about to attack Sybelle.

    Before he realized what he was doing, Aryan subconsciously opened himself to the Force and allowed it to fill every facet of his being. It was an instinctive response, driven by his love for this woman. With a feral yell, he extended his hand and exerted his latent powers upon the odd tourist, the invisible wave slamming into the man’s backside with the intention of propelling him away from Sybelle’s prostrate form.

    "Leave her alone!" he growled harshly as he staggered to his feet.

    The blast had knocked Sybelle away from Aryan and tossed her against a duracreet wall. She wasn’t knocked out, but she was stunned and foggy on what was happening around them. Kriff, she thought as she realized she’d hit her head and likely had a concussion. Her cheek felt damp, which she understood was probably blood.

    Aryan! She gasped as she remembered that he was there too. Sybelle lifted her head just as she heard Aryan’s voice, he was clearly stressed because she could feel his agitation. She sat up to tell him she was okay, when she witnessed him using the Force… he did it to protect her. In that moment she could feel Aryan’s love for her. It was as strong as it had ever been. "Aryan," she called out to him, much louder than she’d intended because everything was muffled. The realization that the stranger had been rushing to her only made their situation feel more perilous because it seemed that someone had recognized them, or had followed them.

    Sybelle rushed to Aryan and felt his head to try and locate where he was bleeding from. "Can you walk?" She asked him. "We should get out of the open, and away from this growing crowd."

    Truthfully, she knew they needed to avoid the authorities too. "Arek, have you seen Arek?" She asked Aryan, pulling him away from the mob that was crowding closer to get a better look at the damage.

    TAG: @Lady_Belligerent; @Sinrebirth
     
  9. Sinrebirth

    Sinrebirth Mod-Emperor of the EUC, Lit, RPF and SWC star 10 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Nov 15, 2004
    IC: Cuf
    Tumbling, and then -

    A mob stampede was most unfortunate, and not wanted.

    He'd been propelled into the crowd by the shove of what he assumed was Aryan Graul, who had been behind him.

    Sybelle he lost, and as the only one of the two that Cuf knew by sight - though keeping track of a Chiss was easy enough - he had rapidly lost track of them. Strain behind his eye meant that he knew he was losing his emotional control, and Cuf took a deep breath. It wouldn't do to break cover so obviously.

    He scrambled to his feet, running for the shadows of a nearby alleyway.

    "You look good down there," came a cold, female voice, and Cuf's blood froze.

    ---
    Aftermath

    Sybelle and Aryan would get away without issue - just sans Arek.

    The authorities shortly brought everything under control, and a local starfighter base sent a pair of X-wings and a shuttle of New Republic soldiers to enforce the boundary. Nouane hadn't joined up, but apparently was content to host a New Republic base... and then the skies lit up with a scream, and TIE Fighters joined the investigation! Nouane was hosting both powers.

    Wow.

    That was one way to ensure they didn't upset either side. Distant Coruscant, distant Orinda, the two capitals treated with equal deference by the Nouanese. True neutrality... or, as the Force suggested, a true tinderbox, especially with a Sith Lord chasing them down.

    Arek had thankfully left them with the directions to the nearest medical facility, as well as an appointment with one Lial Sompa; a male Ho-Din and the Chief Neurologist at the Aurora Medical Facility, who was looking to take on pro bono cases to build up the cachet of a new hospital they'd opened on Nouane.

    [​IMG]

    A good thing as they didn't have infinite money.

    They had a hotel room booked by the young man too, and three hours to their appointment.

    But what to do?

    Hunt more for Arek, or regroup at the place where they could expect he might head?

    The Force bleated with danger... with darkness.

    TAG: @Lady_Belligerent, @HanSolo29
     
  10. HanSolo29

    HanSolo29 RPF/SWC/Fan Art Manager & Bill Pullman Connoisseur star 7 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Apr 13, 2001
    OOC: Another amazing combo with Lady_B and Sinrebirth – thank you so much!! [:D]

    IC: Sybelle, Aryan Graul, and Doctor Lial Sompa
    Spaceport, then Aurora Medical Facility, Nouane

    The chaos and stampede provided Sybelle and Aryan with the cover they needed to get away.

    Sybelle had held on to Aryan as if her life depended on it, they could not risk getting separated, yet they had lost Arek in the confusion. Stopping to look for him wasn’t an option in Sybelle’s mind, instead, she wanted to grab serviceable clothing for them and get checked into their hotel. They needed to stay out of public as much as possible.

    "Arek has probably taken a different route to the hotel," Sybelle said reassuringly, "so let’s hurry there and regroup."

    It was difficult to resist glancing behind them, Sybelle couldn’t shake the feeling that they were either being followed or in jeopardy of something else blowing up around them. She just hoped Aryan wasn’t distressed by her anticipation of impending doom.

    Despite Sybelle’s efforts to usher him along, it was a struggle for Aryan to keep pace. They weren’t exactly traveling at a clipped rate, though he had evidently overexerted himself when he tapped into the Force to pull her away from their mysterious assailant. He now trudged along at her side, his feet dragging carelessly across the gravel and his breathing coming in short, wheezing gasps. Occasionally, he reached up to probe the fresh wound on his head, wincing every time his fingers came away crimson with blood.

    He clearly needed to stop and rest awhile, but it didn’t appear as if Sybelle would grant them that luxury any time soon. Aryan would’ve surely parted his lips to protest—if he wasn’t already conflicted over Arek’s absence. His son was the driving force that kept him going. He could not lose him again; he would not allow it.

    "He—uh, he could be hurt somewhere," he murmured breathlessly, craning his neck around to search the street in a rather conspicuous manner. "I–I can’t… leave him out here. He may not be—s-strong enough to reach the hotel."

    Pivoting, he then grabbed both of Sybelle’s arms and refused to let go, almost pleading as he sought her gaze. "We… we need to try."

    Sybelle’s eyes reflected the concern she was feeling for their situation, and for Aryan’s feelings. It was understandable he was worried about Arek, and truthfully she was too. "I know," she answered in hushed tones, "but I can’t help but wonder if he was trying to find out who could’ve followed us." She quickly glanced around, "he wants you safe, Aryan. I believe he made sure we had the hotel details so that we would meet him there, and he didn’t risk being overheard by calling out instructions."

    There hadn’t been any indication that Arek had suffered injuries, but Sybelle had been distracted by the explosion. Then there were the hazy moments when Aryan protected her from the stranger, she would ask him about that once she had him safe.

    "Arek trusted me to care for you, and to help you get to the appointment with the physician," she was being completely honest, there was no deception. "We must continue and wait for him to join us." Sybelle wouldn’t beg, that wasn’t in her nature. All she could do was give the facts, and hopefully, that would gain his cooperation.

    After a prolonged pause, compounded by an uncomfortable silence, Aryan finally disengaged from Sybelle’s embrace and shuffled back a few paces. He began to restlessly wring his hands before rubbing them idly against his trousers, a nervous habit he had evidently adopted since arriving on the planet. It was a mode for him to cope with his anxiety, fueled by the inherent Darkness that permeated the air.

    By all accounts, it was a distraction, not only from what was obvious within the Force but from the truth of Sybelle’s words. Considering the circumstances surrounding Arek’s disappearance, her explanation seemed to make sense. He had no way of countering her point, even if he didn’t like it—particularly the part that verified his son’s earlier admission that they had come to Nouane to seek out medical care for his ailing mental state.

    He wanted to protest against the notion that he couldn’t function without outside intervention; that he was somehow inferior for his distress. If anything, he felt determined to prove that he could recover of his own free will.

    But he knew that was an unlikely scenario.

    The memories… the voices inside his head would never grant him that opportunity. There was no solace; no escape. This disease was too deeply rooted in his soul.

    Aryan’s inner turmoil was evident in his facial expressions, which shifted through a myriad of negative emotions, including fear and consternation. He glanced at Sybelle only once but refused to hold her gaze. He did not want her to share in his suffering.

    Instead, he nodded his head slowly in acceptance. "I… I trust you," he murmured quietly as he stepped ahead.

    The physician was waiting in the old clock tower, which had been converted into a hospital at some point in the past.

    Merely seeing the building would trigger memories in Aryan, but also Sybelle, from times gone by when winged beasts and griffins fought in the sky while a volcano rose up and swallowed the city...

    Sybelle would not remember surviving, while Aryan would remember being enclosed in a golden tomb.

    "Are you both okay?" A sing-song male voice.

    It was Lial Sompa.

    "Y—yes, fine," Sybelle swallowed, "I was a bit emotional from seeing this tower… again." She smiled softly and quickly changed the subject, "This is Aryan Graul," she said and gently guided him forward, "we’re here to see if you can help him."

    She silently prayed Arek had filled them in when he had made the appointment because she didn’t want to make Aryan feel uncomfortable by going into details about his condition. He needed to be the one to speak for himself whenever possible.

    Sybelle had not had a moment yet to fully digest what had happened earlier. She had been in agony watching her lover go through the ordeal of processing whether or not he could trust her.

    She had resisted touching him through their intimate bond, even though her instinct was to comfort him, it was important to her that he be able to accept her without influence. Sybelle would soothe away his anxiety and offer support later, once he had worked through his inner demons. And that was exactly what had happened right before her eyes. He’d given her his trust.

    Once they had met Lial Sompa, Sybelle filled their bond with encouragement. 'Tell him, Aryan, you need to tell him in your own words what you’ve been through.' She took his hand and gently squeezed, "I want to stay with him," she said to Lial Sompa.

    Sybelle’s words, both gentle and kind, broke through the dissonance inside Aryan’s mind, momentarily disrupting the constant flow of voices and images that plagued him. He was able to latch onto them as a lifeline, banishing a particularly vivid memory of himself trapped inside of a sarcophagus while an ancient city burned around him.

    He knew the planet itself had triggered the terrible vision. It was part of the curse that had engulfed Nouane in endless shadow. That’s why the reprieve Sybelle afforded him was so important. It allowed him to escape, if only for a moment, the nightmares that threatened to plunge him into madness.

    With a sharp intake of breath, Aryan squeezed her hand in return, acknowledging her support before shifting his gaze toward Dr. Sompa. Even though he wasn’t entirely trusting of the peculiar man, he knew there was no alternative option for his situation. Sybelle was correct; if he wanted to restore his mental health, he would need to show a willingness to share his experiences... no matter how much pain it caused him.

    Of course, part of him still maintained that he didn’t require medical assistance at all, though that was likely due to his own stubborn pride. He was far beyond the point of potentially wounding his ego.

    "I… I feel myself spiraling," Aryan began timidly, refusing to release his hold on Sybelle’s hand. "There are so many… images—voices inside my head… but they’re not mine. It’s like… I’m witnessing someone else’s memories. Everything is jumbled, and… I—I can’t make sense of it."

    Dr. Sompa held out his hands to them, releasing a calming pollen, not as direct as a Zeltron or Falleen pheromone, but nonetheless soothing. "Quite alright, I assure you, both of you," the doctor added, conscious that the... partner of the patient could be just as key to the recovery of the patient himself.

    "Come, come, let's get you inside. We want to narrow down your external stimulae."

    The doctor exuded professional care in the Force, but there remained their shadow…

    "You were wonderful," Sybelle assured Aryan, "explaining that was a big step." She squeezed his hand and they followed Sompa’s directions to get into the building.

    She was curious about the physician, but she needed to keep Aryan distracted from thinking too much.

    "Oh!" Sybelle exclaimed as she spotted a beautiful small tree inside the lobby. "Aryan, look! I haven’t seen an olive tree like this since the ones in your mother’s garden on Nubia." She gently touched a leaf as though it were made of spun glass. "Remember when we picked olives, and you wanted to prove you could eat one straight off the tree?" Sybelle giggled at the memory, olives that haven’t cured in a brine have an extremely bitter flavor, and Aryan found that out the hard way.

    [​IMG]

    His expression had been priceless, Ashaiya and Sybelle had laughed so hard that they had cried.

    With one hand still clenched tightly in Sybelle’s grasp, Aryan tentatively reached out with the other to touch the leaves, pinching the waxy surface between his thumb and forefinger. He hoped the physical contact would stimulate his senses and help him retrieve the perceived memory from the muddled images that plagued his mind. It was there; buried deep. He only needed to sift through the chaos to find that specific spark…

    Aryan furrowed his brow as he saw an outdoor terrace bathed in various hues of yellow and orange. He could feel the warmth of the afternoon sun against his exposed skin and smell the garden’s lush foliage around him. He heard the peals of laughter carrying on the light breeze… and finally, the acidic taste of the olive as it hit his palate.

    For a moment, he closed his eyes to merely absorb the scene and appreciate the relative simplicity of that single snapshot in time. It was wholly personal; an intimate occurrence shared between family and friends.

    Finally, with a hint of relief, Aryan allowed himself to laugh.

    He remembered.

    It happened years ago on Nubia when he was still a young man. He couldn’t pinpoint the exact timeframe, but Sybelle had been by his side, as well as—

    His mother.

    Aryan suddenly fell silent and shuffled his feet haltingly. A woman’s face materialized within his mind’s eye, her kind disposition afflicted by an inner turmoil that evoked a sense of resigned sadness. He had always regretted his inability to fully ease her suffering. It had gone on for many years, and while things had improved recently, circumstances beyond his control had forced him to leave home again.

    And now—?

    "My—" he choked on the words, becoming more agitated as tears shone in his eyes. "My—mom… I—I left her behind. She can’t take care of herself...not completely. Not long-term. She, uh… she needs assistance. If Lyz or Jalynn—how long have I been…?"

    His speech dissolved into an indecipherable mess as he pulled away from her and began to rub his head compulsively.

    "Calm, calm," the Ho'din soothed, releasing more pollen. "It's quite alright to worry about those who are absent. But we can get you in contact with anyone, anywhere - the HoloNet works very well here."

    He would have doused them in a sleeping spore if he thought it would help, but he suspected Aryan would become more agitated.

    Briefly, the doctor regarded the tree. "But while I arrange you a Holocomm call," he tapped at a datapad. "Tell me about this memory, Sybelle, please."

    She had released Aryan’s hand and wiped his tears with her bare fingers, "it would be my pleasure to explain, doctor," Sybelle answered.

    "At the Graul’s estate on Nubia, Aryan’s mother, Ashaiya, had beautiful gardens that seemed to extend into the horizon." She kept her eyes on Aryan while speaking, and gently caressed his face. Her instinct was not to shush him or even tell him not to weep, maybe crying would help him to work out the emotions that were so troubling.

    "When I was there we spent as much time as possible in the gardens," Sybelle explained, "it was so peaceful, Ashaiya made it that way."

    She smiled imagining the lush foliage swaying from a slight breeze, and how they would take their meals out there. Her thoughts were vivid and strong, she wanted to impress them into Aryan’s mind to calm him.

    Sybelle saw them under the canopy of trees, where they lay in the soft grass taking turns reading from a novel to each other. Both of them loved suspense and adventure and could spend hours reading in the garden.

    Sybelle reached down and took Aryan’s hand again, "one afternoon we were picking olives for her to cure. Aryan didn’t understand why Ashaiya put the effort into curing them, he said we should just eat them fresh from the tree," Sybelle smiled lovingly at Aryan. She laughed softly, "but they are horribly bitter before they’re cured, and we warned him, but he tried one anyway. His expression went from innocent curiosity to pure disgust."

    Sybelle pulled gently on his arm and tilted her face up, hoping he would remember.

    Would he remember to lean down so that she could kiss his cheek?

    The combination of the doctor’s healing balm and Sybelle’s retrospection provided both clarity and calm. Aryan was able to simply breathe and center his thoughts to further isolate the desired memory from the mental chaos that had consumed his mind. The image was initially obscure, as if looking through a window pane that had frozen over. However, the haze soon melted away and allowed the scene to swim into sharp focus.

    Again, he saw the tree.

    The garden.

    Sybelle.

    His mother.

    And then—

    Exhaling softly, Aryan responded to Sybelle’s gentle tug by bowing his head. The motion infiltrated her personal space, bringing his lips dangerously close to her ear. He stood there for a moment, merely relishing her presence as he breathed in her scent.

    "I—I got my revenge," he relayed after a brief pause, his voice a low whisper as if to share an intimate secret with his lover. "When you… prepared that nuna roast for Founder’s Day. I, uh… I swapped out the olives for… uncured ones. You and Mom thought they’d spoiled, but I—I picked them off the tree myself when… you—you weren’t watching."

    Aryan nuzzled against her cheek before stepping back with a mischievous grin, his demeanor suggesting an air of confidence that hadn’t been there prior to this breakthrough. He knew he still had a long way to go, but he finally felt optimistic about his prognosis.

    "You… you, uh mentioned the HoloNet," he continued without missing a beat, suddenly remembering the doctor’s promise. He turned to regard the man, his brow lifting expectantly. "I—I want to speak to my… family."

    There was a soft smile as Dr. Sompa saw the two recollect, and he guided them to a quiet corner of the Estate, which included open spaces akin to a park, a medical wing that was state of the art, and so forth. The grounds of the old Clock Tower were decent enough in size, after all.

    The Ho'din did turn slightly to Aryan, however. "I am not all too sure that you are able to handle all of that today, Aryan." Dr. Sompa's voice was most gentle. "Would you not rather rest? The explosion at the docks must have been especially worrisome for you." He absently frowned, head-entrails writhing for a moment. "I was for some reason sure that there were supposed to be three of you in your party, no?"

    Sybelle took Aryan’s hands into hers and squeezed gently, facing the doctor she answered, "Aryan’s son, Arek, was with us." She hoped the doctor would understand from her expression that she was concerned for Arek’s well-being, but she didn’t want to give Aryan a reason to become overly stressed.

    "We arrived together at the spaceport," she stroked Aryan’s hands gently, "but we were separated during the aftermath of the explosion. I was hopeful he would join us here since he was the one who set up Aryan’s appointment."

    She sounded more confident than she felt, and feelings of dread crossed began to creep in. It was because of the stranger that had been watching them, he had felt so odd. He could have had something to do with Arek vanishing.

    "Could you send someone to look for Arek, doctor?"

    Aryan scowled at Sybelle’s suggestion and became defiant as he pulled his hands away from her grasp. He cared deeply for Arek, and it pained him to know that he was still unaccounted for—however, he wasn’t certain that Sompa was the right person to conduct a search for his missing son. The man had lied to him, dangling the carrot of his family in front of his nose only to retract it with the excuse that he wasn’t well enough to speak to them.

    Why suggest it in the first place if it wasn’t obtainable? Was it an indirect way to appease him and silence his concerns? That was a form of manipulation, plain and simple, and he didn’t care to indulge him. That wasn’t how he was going to earn his trust.

    "I—I can search for him… m-myself," Aryan stated gruffly, his jaw set in determination. "He’s my son. I—I owe him that. What’s, uh… the point in staying if he’s not here to offer support? This was… his idea."

    His eyes narrowed as he suddenly whirled on the doctor, gesturing at him accusingly. "You… l-lied to me. Why should I trust you… to–to find my son?"

    The doctor lifted his hands. "Madam, I'd like to sedate him."

    It was a loaded question.

    He was asking for her permission to knock Aryan out.

    Sybelle was incredulous that the doctor went immediately to such an extreme action at the first sign of Aryan becoming stressed.

    "You do NOT have my permission to knock Aryan out," she answered the doctor firmly.

    It was important not to allow her emotions to be so strong, it could fuel Aryan’s anxiety, yet she was currently failing at maintaining a calm facade. "You do not have my permission to touch him."

    Aryan had pulled away from her, but now she reached over and took a firm grip on his arm.

    "We do not need your services, doctor," Sybelle snapped and pulled Aryan with her to the doors.

    Suddenly it occurred to her that they had been set up. Could it be possible that the Arek who brought them there wasn’t really Aryan’s son? Or, if he was the real Arek, and he worked with an enemy to get Aryan here?

    They needed a safe place to discuss their situation and make decisions.

    The Ho'din lifted his hands, calming.

    "I do not believe that would be a good course of action," the Doctor said, and his voice became appealing. "Master Graul, I will arrange a search party for your son, I promise, I just don't want you to hurt yourself, or your loves."

    Aryan followed along at Sybelle’s side as she ushered him toward the exit, determined to regain some semblance of control over the situation. However, his resolve soon wavered when the doctor’s voice reached his ears. Suddenly distracted, he planted his heels and pulled against Sybelle’s arm to stop their forward momentum. As they came to a staggering halt, he turned and studied the Ho’din with a curious gaze.

    There was no explanation for what happened. While Aryan wanted to abandon the appointment and set out to find his son, the doctor’s words carried a certain validity he couldn’t ignore. They provided comfort in his time of distress, generating a sense of security that made him reluctant to leave. This facility felt safe; perhaps it was the only safe haven on this ruinous planet.

    Before Aryan realized what he was doing, he nodded his head to accept Sompa’s offer to search for Arek. Although he still had some doubts about the man’s integrity, they were not quite as strong as before. He felt more content… at peace.

    "I… I don’t think we should wander around out there alone," Aryan stated after a moment, squeezing Sybelle’s arm to reinforce his words. He then winced at the images that continued to inundate his mind. "The… Darkness shrouds this world—it… it serves as a harbinger of destruction... the beginning of The End."

    He angled his chin, his eyes seeking Sybelle’s face. "It’s… it’s too dangerous."

    She had been determined to rush as far from this place as possible, without any destination in mind, because her only thought was to get away from the man wanting to sedate Aryan. However, it was impossible for her to ignore the passion in Aryan’s voice; she would agree to stay if that was indeed his wish.

    Most notable was that Aryan stepped up to make a decision. It was something that he had been denied for a long time. Lumiya, and the others, had taken away his freedom, and his dignity. Now that he had been freed, they would get his dignity and his health back.

    She placed her hand on his cheek and whispered, "I want you to be comfortable, and if that means staying, then I will not leave your side for a moment." Her words trailed off because the physical contact triggered images to flash through her mind, they correlated with Aryan’s comments. Sybelle met his eyes and nodded grimly, she understood that he had very real concerns.

    "Perhaps I spoke too quickly," Sybelle said to the doctor, "my companion trusts you, and I trust him."

    Sybelle slipped her hand into Aryan’s and squeezed reassuringly, "I would like it made clear, that we will not agree to any sedation."

    TAG: @Lady_Belligerent; @Sinrebirth
     
  11. Sinrebirth

    Sinrebirth Mod-Emperor of the EUC, Lit, RPF and SWC star 10 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Nov 15, 2004
    Time

    Sedation was not offered.

    They were merely moved to another room, a bedroom, but with an open glass ceiling and plants around the edges, adding a green hue to the white, otherwise sterile, walls, the light reflected off the oversized leaves and gave that colour to the room, only interrupted by the occasional red that rippled along the waists of the trees.

    The room had comforts, yes, and was comfortable in bed and sofa, with amenities merely hidden away to keep the natural ambiance of the room going.

    Time would pass, for them each, and both, and their souls would be soothed. Indeed, the Force had quieted, though where it was silent, or stilled, was up for debate. Neither Sybelle or Aryan would be able to ascertain which it was, around their own vagaries and concerns.

    The tale between the two of them would be able to unfold, if they wished, whispered to each other, or merely spoken. There were no electronics to record them, their own checks would confirm as much. Merely the watchfulness of trees, lazily focused to the sun above them, a Nouanese afternoon, lilting upon them.

    It would be some hours before Dr Sompa called upon them with an update about Arek Graul.

    There was nothing more to be said, but what they said to each other.

    No prompt, merely time to catch up with what had happened, what they had missed, what had Changed.

    Peace.

    Peacefulness.

    Fullness.

    Heart.

    Soul.

    Truth?

    What would they tell each other?

    TAG: @Lady_Belligerent, @HanSolo29 (combo, slow going)
     
  12. HanSolo29

    HanSolo29 RPF/SWC/Fan Art Manager & Bill Pullman Connoisseur star 7 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Apr 13, 2001
    OOC: The following is a combo with Lady B and Sinrebirth. It's been a pleasure – thank you so much!! [:D]

    IC: Sybelle, Aryan Graul, and Pedric Cuff
    Private Suite, Nouane

    Sybelle slowly circled the peaceful quarters they had been given. It was difficult not to be suspicious after all they had been through to get to Nouane, then there was Arek’s mysterious disappearance, nothing about it made sense.

    She glanced over at Aryan and decided that some rest would do them both a great deal of good. For the first time since they had ended up together, Sybelle felt awkward. Somehow being on the run from a crazed Dark Lady, and their ship exploding on the spaceport had been easier to navigate than being alone now.

    If she was honest with herself, she knew that things had changed when Aryan asked to contact his family. She had to have known it was coming, once again Lyz would show up and Sybelle would be kicked to the streets. Only this time she was much older and wiser, and she knew that cruel witch tended to care about her own interests over Aryan. Where was she when Sybelle had helped him escape?

    Sybelle silently shook her head and tried to force those thoughts aside. It would be sad to waste this time with Aryan worrying about Lyz.

    It happened that she had stopped to stand beside the bed, her cheeks felt warm. Sybelle sighed because it was so foolish to blush like a schoolgirl, she quickly went to the sofa and unlaced her boots. They were discarded carelessly on the floor, only after a second thought she picked them up, and sat them neatly at the side of the sofa.

    "Come and sit?" She asked Aryan and touched the sofa cushions.

    "I want you to tell me a story," she said quietly and then wondered why she’d said that. Sybelle looked down at her hands, she wanted to ask questions, but didn’t want it to appear that she was prying.

    "I’ll rub your shoulders and you can tell me the story of Aryan Graul."

    The Force had quieted to a mere whisper, and for the first time since arriving on Nouane, Aryan could no longer detect the Darkness that tainted this world. It was either hidden from view or snuffed out completely by an unseen force. Whatever the case, he wasn’t going to question the logic behind its dispersal.

    He felt calm, at peace...

    … relatively speaking, of course.

    Despite Arek’s disappearance weighing heavily on his thoughts, he had discovered other ways to cope with his anxiety. Their room was a sanctuary with indigenous plants and a vista ceiling that allowed for breathtaking views of the distant mountains. He found himself gazing out at the scenic landscape for hours on end, lost in its serenity. It was a more pragmatic use of his time as opposed to restlessly pacing around the perimeter of the room. He was sure Sybelle appreciated the alternative as well. He didn’t want to further contribute to her unease.

    Aryan turned to sit with her now, joining her on the sofa as she encouraged him to tell a story about his life after their separation. It wasn’t a tale he wished to share, which became evident when his face twisted into a troubled frown. He immediately recalled his arrest following the Senate’s dissolution. It was a hard year in Imperial custody; a lost year. He still couldn’t bring himself to talk about the horrors he had witnessed, not even with his own family. It had fundamentally changed him—in more ways than one.

    But he quickly realized, with some chagrin, that Sybelle hadn’t specifically asked about that. That was all an illusion, a manifestation of his addled mind. It was possible she didn’t even know about his incarceration. If not, that was for the best. He wasn't about to breach that subject.

    "I… I don’t know if anything really made sense after you left," Aryan began timidly, choosing his words wisely in an attempt to navigate this difficult inquiry. There was still so much he didn’t want to reveal, particularly surrounding his time in the Galactic Senate. Aside from fame and glory, he hadn’t been a very good person. He would need to tread carefully.

    "You know… I was elected Senator for Nubia. I ran after… my dad stepped down, and—" He scoffed at the memory. "They—the people… they actually voted for me. I—I don’t know what they were thinking. I was practically a… kid. I didn’t know what the kriff I was doing. I was flying by the seat of my pants… it was impulsive, but—"

    A shadow seemed to pass over his countenance as he suddenly lost his train of thought. The memories flashed rapidly across his mind’s eye, inundating his mental processes and causing his brow to crease with consternation. It was nearly impossible to isolate an exact moment in time—

    And yet…

    There.

    "It… it was worth it," Aryan continued as if he had never faltered. "Who knew I would find… critical acclaim and actually be… good at it." He shook his head with a whimsical smile. "You remember that holodrama—uh, Kallea’s Hope? It garnered all that award buzz at the time from the Core World Critics Association. I never… imagined that it would earn me my first Star Burst for Best Actor. I took a gamble when I agreed to sign on for that role… and it paid off. My career hit the stratosphere after that."

    Sybelle had been massaging Aryan’s tense shoulder muscles. Her plan was to help him relax by using a simple distraction, so asking him to tell her a story she had hoped he would recount to her a humorous anecdote. Something along the lines of feeding a wild animal, or getting caught in inclement weather. Instead, this was adding to his tension.

    Her fingers kneaded across his shoulder over to his spine, then using her thumbs on either side she stroked downward in short, firm strokes, while he became critical of himself.

    Aryan was telling her about being a Senator, and how inept he felt, but she knew him to have been a brilliant politician. Sybelle had kept close tabs on his career, so she was taken aback at his negativity.

    Shoulder muscles that she’d been kneading were growing tense again as he stammered. Then suddenly the tension eased and they relaxed, she felt a shift in Aryan beneath her hands, both in his muscles and his posture.

    An actor in a holodrama? What the kriff was he talking about?

    A confused Sybelle sat back and asked, "Aryan… are you okay?"

    Her words gave him pause, sending an icy chill down the length of his spine. The question itself was enough to unnerve him, but the tone of her voice, which accentuated her concern, elicited a tremulous sigh from his lips. He couldn’t help but wonder if he had done something wrong to upset her. At this point, he couldn’t afford to lose her confidence and trust.

    "Yeah, I’m—I think so," Aryan replied cautiously, readjusting his position so that he now faced her. "It’s going to take some time, but—"

    He trailed off with a long exhale, his eyes searching Sybelle’s face for answers. He saw confusion and uncertainty reflecting in her gaze, which only compounded his insecurities. His pulse quickened, the rhythmic cadence pounding in his chest with such ferocity that he heard a dull roar.

    "You… you told me to tell a story," he pressed on, desperate to break the awkward silence. "Maybe—uh, maybe I took it too literally. It… wasn’t what you wanted to hear." He shook his head and closed his eyes briefly to compose himself. "I—I stand by what I said, though… about things not making sense."

    Sybelle’s face softened, "I want to know everything, both the good and the bad." She touched his face, gently at first, and when he didn’t immediately pull away, she cradled his face in her hands. "I’ve loved you from the first time I laid eyes on you, and you were in very poor condition that day, and I shall love you up until I draw my last breath no matter what we are going through." Sybelle leaned in and gently placed her lips on his for a moment. It was a kiss sealing her vow, rather than of passion, she would stay at his side as long as he allowed her to.

    She slowly pulled back and smiled at him, "it’s my turn," she encouraged him to stretch out and lay his head in her lap. "I want you to get comfortable, and I’ll apologize to you in advance because I’m such a terrible storyteller."

    Settling back she began, "You might recall that my family has long been interested in antiquities, specifically certain artifacts, but I’m straying because it’s really not the point of my story."

    Her hand waved like it wasn’t important, but it would be best not to discuss that in case someone was listening. "I had joined my sister and her family to explore ruins out on the edge of the Unknowns. The entire time I kept wondering why the hell I thought that would be an ideal destination to get away because it was so remote and dirty. Ugh! I kept dreaming of a hot bath, even a cold sanistream would’ve been divine." She could see the desolate scapes in her mind, there was so little foliage, and no interesting plant life. What was there were loved ones, and being near them to watch the children playing was a balm for her soul at the time.

    "The entire site was in a canyon where water sources had long dried up. It was odd how a place that had once been a lush riverbed had eventually died over the centuries. See, I’m probably boring you already," she laughed.

    With his head resting easily upon her lap, Aryan stared up at the high ceiling, his eyes narrowed against the sunlight streaming down from the skylight above. He wasn’t so much seeing the accommodations around him as he was trying to envision the vivid landscape Sybelle had described in her story. As the rugged terrain slowly swam into focus in his mind’s eye, his expression turned wistful. The lingering effects of her kiss, which he could still feel as a tingling sensation on his lips, certainly helped to stimulate his imagination.

    "It’s… not boring if—if you’re doing what you love," Aryan replied softly, a small smile beginning to pull at the corner of his mouth. He then craned his neck to finally meet her gaze with warm admiration.

    However, he grew increasingly more uncomfortable the longer he analyzed her tale. There was something off about it that he couldn’t quite identify. His anxiety continued to intensify until suddenly, he found himself consumed by a sobering revelation, which caused the light to fade from his eyes. He felt his stomach clench painfully, turning it into knots as it took his breath away.

    As he parted his lips to speak, he directed his gaze back to the ceiling. "But you… also had options," he murmured quietly. "You… weren’t hurt or—incapacitated. I thought—I thought you—" He sucked in a wavering breath, willing himself to maintain his composure. "That wasn’t the case. You were… alive with… your sister and her family. All those years. You never—reached out to me."

    He nodded slowly, coming to an understanding.

    "That was your choice."

    "My—choice?" Sybelle gasped.

    "Why would you think I was incapacitated? I don’t understand…" Then it dawned on her what had likely happened. She felt a sinking in her stomach realizing his father, or Lyz, had lied to him.

    "Did they tell you that, Aryan?" She asked while struggling to stay calm. Internally she was thinking of all the awful things they had told him about her, and now he may not believe the truth… if she tried to tell him. It would explain why he never came for her when her whereabouts had not been a secret. More than once she had imagined he would track her down and they would be together again, but he didn’t.

    Swallowing hard, she blinked back tears and asked, "What exactly were you told about me?"

    A slight cough from one corner of the room.

    "Might I interject?"

    [​IMG]

    The strange shadow rendered Aryan speechless, halting his response before he could formulate the words. Suddenly, Sybelle’s revelation no longer mattered. The paralyzing fear that gripped his chest caused her to fade into the background, merging with the non-descript walls of the sterile room. Everything then began to rotate in a blurred kaleidoscope of light, creating a nucleus with the hooded figure at its center. He loomed large above him, a proverbial monster poised to pounce…

    And yet, he wasn’t just any monster.

    He was the Darkness that afflicted this planet, manifesting in physical form to consume them.

    Or was it… White Eyes—?

    No.

    It wasn’t as intense.

    Peering into the darkened cowl, Aryan didn't feel suffocated by his presence...

    But it was enough.

    He staggered back against the sofa, breathing heavily as he desperately tried to put distance between himself and the stranger. "No… n–no… no," he stammered erratically, his panic becoming more pronounced. "L–Leave—you can’t… have me… stay away!"

    Aryan’s strong reaction emboldened Sybelle. She crossed the room quickly to make sure the being didn’t get any closer to Aryan, now wondering if they had indeed been fooled by the doctor.

    Sompa being on their side was too good to be true, and the proof was standing right here in the form of an intruder in what was to have been a sanctuary for Aryan.

    "Who are you, and what do you want?" Sybelle demanded.

    "You may call me Cuf," he said, drily as he stepped from the shadows. "I'm merely hunting down something a mutual ally of mine directed me towards."

    The man was tall, his face hidden, the armour shining as if cerulean, rather than metal.

    "I have another name, but that is not for your ears, infidels."

    The words did not register for Aryan; his fear of this apparition was too great. From his perspective, Cuf was the physical manifestation of the Darkness he had seen in his nightmares. There was no escape from such an entity in the natural realm.

    And so, as the being drew closer to his position, it debilitated Aryan’s senses and rendered him inert. He sat huddled in the corner of the sofa, his knees drawn up to his chest and his eyes partially closed as if to will away the danger. With Sybelle momentarily barred from his mind, it was the only way that he could feel secure…

    … until he discovered an object weighing down one of the many pockets of his jumpsuit. He found it through pure happenstance amid his scuffling. It was cool and metallic, and the shape conformed neatly into the palm of his hand.

    A blaster.

    Aryan was in motion before he could stop to consider his options. He pulled the blaster free from his pocket and brandished it across his chest in a gesture that telegraphed his intentions—but at this point, he didn’t give a damn about his methods. He only wanted to eliminate the immediate threat to his life.

    There was no hesitation as he depressed the trigger and fired at the wraith.

    She felt Aryan’s anguish, this was torture for him.

    "We don’t know you, and you’re upsetting my companion," Sybelle ordered, "so leave now!" She was prepared to summon help from the staff if Cuf didn’t leave immediately.

    "We have nothing, our ship was blown up, so you won’t find that something here—Aryan!"

    She’d felt his intent a second before the shot rang out.

    Sybelle rushed to Aryan to protect him in case Cuf had a blaster and decided to retaliate, she also took the blaster from his hand. If anyone questioned them who had the blaster Sybelle would claim it was her’s.

    "You’re alright, love… just breathe," she said softly to soothe him.

    The bolt erupted from the blaster and took a shot on his cerulean-looking armour.

    It deflected off, impacted the wall, and Cuf raised a blackened hand, throwing a jelly at Aryan and Sybelle.

    In his other hand rasped a snake, uncoiling from his arm.

    "That was not advisable."

    Despite Sybelle’s efforts to soothe him, Aryan staggered back into the couch and recoiled from her touch, clearly stricken by the developing situation. He stared briefly at his hand before angling his gaze at the shadow man, dumbfounded that the blaster had no adverse effects against their foe. He merely advanced with relentless ferocity, uncoiling a whip-like weapon from his wrist—

    … or was it alive?

    Aryan noted that it hissed as it slid down the man’s arm, and he thought he saw an angular head lashing at them with powerful jaws. Unfortunately, there was no time to examine the creature before Cuf attacked. A formless, gelatinous blob sailed through the air toward their position.

    Gritting his teeth, Aryan reacted on pure instinct and reached out with both arms to push Sybelle aside. At that moment, her safety was the only thing that mattered. His fear dissipated as he recognized the debilitating effects of his ailing mind; he was too far gone to make a difference. If anyone should escape from this confrontation, it was Sybelle. She had the best chance of survival.

    "Go," he uttered aloud to articulate those thoughts, his voice nothing more than a gravelly whisper. There was urgency reflecting in his blue eyes as he lifted his chin to meet her gaze.

    "Go!"

    He had called her by name earlier that day… At the spaceport just after the ship had blown up. The blast had thrown her away from Aryan, and she had hit her head.

    "Come, come, we need to get you out of danger, Sybelle."

    "No! I will not leave you, Aryan," Sybelle insisted. She scowled at Cuf and demanded more information, "You were at the spaceport, did you cause the ship to explode?"

    It was painful to deny Aryan’s plea for her to run, and she wanted to tell him how much it meant to her that he wanted to protect her. Sybelle decided that she would make sure to tell him… once they got rid of Cuf.

    Careful to avoid the disturbing jelly that Cuf was tossing, she inched back to Aryan and linked her arm through his. "Why did you speak to me?" Sybelle asked Cuf. "You said you needed to get me out of danger, and I want to know specifically what this danger was?"

    The jelly impacted Aryan's foot, and began to encase his boot -

    "A Sith Lord is looking for you," he said, drily. "She caused the explosion. Nouane is a world where she has her claws in; it is tied to the Change." The shadowed man stepped forward, revealing just how alien he was. "Those I represent are deeply interested in the potential of the Sith."

    Aryan reeled and swayed precariously as the jelly ensnared his foot and halted his forward progress. However, due to his mental incapacities, which continued to negatively affect his mobility and physical coordination, he found it impossible to regain his balance. As a result, he pitched forward and toppled from the couch with an audible grunt.

    Despite his compromising position, that did not dissuade him from trying to escape. Their situation had turned dire, especially now that Cuf had revealed his true intentions. He wanted Sybelle. That was something he simply couldn’t allow, not after she had risked her life to liberate him from Lumiya’s prison—

    But wait—

    Hadn’t he also mentioned a Sith Lord?

    Was it possible he was trying to save them?

    No.

    He couldn’t accept that.

    "She’s not with the Sith!" he growled impulsively, his face twisting into a sneer.

    His thoughts and perceptions began to blur together and spiral into a dizzying kaleidoscope, causing him to lose all sense of awareness. For Sybelle's sake, he knew he must act quickly if he was going to accomplish anything of value.

    With clenched teeth, Aryan sat up and began to pull aggressively at his boot in an attempt to free his foot from the gelatinous substance. When his exertion proved fruitless, he pushed up his pant leg and tugged to remove the footwear completely. He was willing to go barefoot if it meant extricating himself from this snare.

    "I don’t even know a Sith Lord," Sybelle said angrily, "I suggest you explain yourself immediately or get the hell out of here."

    Technically she knew of one… Lumiya, the crazed Sith who had kept Aryan and his son as her prisoners. There was no need to share that with a stranger who barged in on them.

    She bent over to help Aryan remove his boot. It was now clear that this place wasn’t a safe haven for them after all, and Sybelle was determined to get Aryan to safety, one way or another. Plus, she was very concerned about Arek, why had he disappeared? Where was he now?

    "Does the doctor know you’re in here?" She demanded scowling at Cuf.

    "Of course not," Cuf sniffed.

    He tilted his head slightly. "I confess, what drives you infidels baffles me. But I must work with what I have. If you are not my conduit to the Sith, then I will simply leave you be."

    The tall alien bared teeth, his face still largely concealed. He let Aryan escape the blorash jelly, and regarded them for a long moment.

    "Or should I kill you?"

    "Wait… wait!" Aryan interjected with his hands partially raised, still on the verge of panic after his ordeal with the jelly. He had been content to remain silent and merely listen to the exchange between Sybelle and Cuff—however, that quickly changed when the strange alien threatened to end their lives. There was no provocation; it was seemingly out of malice and hate.

    In that instant, something clicked inside Aryan’s mind, allowing him to find clarity. He had struggled to break through the mental haze since escaping from Lumiya’s lair, and while it marked considerable progress, he knew it wouldn’t last long. It was imperative for him to make the most of this moment before he spiraled once more.

    He had to save Sybelle.

    It wasn’t even about him anymore. He wasn’t concerned about his own safety; he was beyond help.

    "I–I spent time… with the Sith," Aryan started slowly, the tremor in his voice betraying his courage. "Lumiya… and, uh... White Eyes." He winced at the memory, closing his eyes briefly in an attempt to maintain his composure. "I—augh…I can—tell you… everything—"

    Inhaling sharply, he lifted a trembling hand toward Sybelle. "—if you… let her go free."

    Sybelle gasped. "I’m not leaving without you, Aryan," she practically growled at him.

    "Look, Cuf," she spat, "Aryan was held prisoner by a couple of deranged Sith, he’s not a conduit to them." She glared at the intruder and intended to stand her ground.

    "You have your answer," Sybelle said, "if we need to leave we will, but I will not be separated from Aryan."

    Cuf looked intrigued. "Lumiya and White Eyes."

    He took a step forward, sprinkled what seemed to be arsensalts on the jelly, and it receded.

    "See, you already knew more than I did."

    He was considerably more pleasant for a moment.

    "How about I make this... easier for you."

    He reached into a pocket and withdrew a flesh-mass.

    "My face is cloaked to simply prevent more mental scars, Lady Sybelle. But this," he indicated it absently, the frothing skin. "It will make me more amenable to the humanoid eye, and I will then deal with your deranged Sith myself."

    Sybelle squinted at being called Lady Sybelle, it sounded so strange.

    Cuf had obviously been wearing that mask when he was watching them at the spaceport, but that still didn’t tell her what this Yuuzhan Vong wanted from them. Then suddenly Sybelle felt foolish for not realizing it sooner, Cuf would’ve seen Arek.

    "Cuf, I have a question, did you see what happened to Aryan’s son, Arek? He was with us at the spaceport, and I didn’t see him in the aftermath." Sybelle had worried with each hour that had passed, but she hadn’t said anything to Aryan. "I had been sure he would meet us here, but he hasn’t shown up," Sybelle swallowed.

    Bringing it up was a risk, she hoped it wouldn’t cause Aryan more stress, but she was worried.

    "I’ll tell you everything I can about Lumiya if you’ll help us reunite with Arek… please?"

    Cuf took the opportunity to reply before Aryan did. With a suddenness, he placed the flesh upon his face, and with a twist of his neck was abruptly looking like someone they had spoken to earlier. "Yes, I’ll help you."

    What was this alien monster?

    "Tell me everything about the Dark Lord of the Sith."

    Aryan recoiled as the stranger stepped forth in his humanoid form, clearly disgusted by the transformation that had occurred. The fleshy mass adhered to Cuf’s distinct physiognomy like a mask, projecting the visage of a human whom they had encountered earlier in the spaceport. He recalled how the man had tried to take Sybelle away from him. Despite his promise to assist them in retrieving Arek, that was reason enough not to trust him.

    And yet, hadn’t Aryan contributed to this outcome? He had asked for Sybelle’s freedom—and some leniency—in exchange for information. It pained him that she had not complied with his wishes, though he wasn’t about to complain about her choosing to remain at his side.

    Nevertheless, he still felt responsible for the situation, which prompted him to speak up.

    "They… wanted information," Aryan stammered weakly, making no attempt to pick himself up from the floor. "And… power. An ancient power that… consumed Palpatine—or started with him? Uhh, I dunno. I think… I think it was connected through a Holocron. And, uh… an Echo."

    His blue eyes glazed over as his mind drifted. "I… I lost the Holocron."

    He scowled.

    "He took it from me."

    Sybelle didn’t comment.

    It was important that Aryan give Cuf enough details to guarantee he would help them locate Arek.

    What she could do was try to soothe Aryan, and give him assurance that he was helping Arek.

    Pedric Cuf nodded. "I see." He tapped his chin, human style, a mockery of humanity upon his face. "But that gives me plenty to work with. I have contacts on Coruscant. They'll be able to follow the loose ends..."

    "Now, as for Arek." He turned to face the shadow for a moment. "I will have to return with him, or news of him. I suspect he has gotten himself in the middle of something else."

    His gaze took in Sybelle. "Is that acceptable?"

    Sybelle pursed her lips, her eyes tracked Cuf’s glimpse to a shadow before she replied.

    "Do not play games with me," she said, "my patience is wearing thin and I will not allow Aryan to be put through more stress." Sybelle was firm but calm.

    That glance to a shadow made her uneasy, it weakened what small amount of trust she had for this invader to their alleged safe place.

    "Anything less than returning Arek to us would obviously be unacceptable." She swallowed hard and reluctantly asked Cuf, "I want an honest answer, is Aryan safe here or should we keep moving?" She sighed and added, "If you came for me, are there others coming for me?"

    She wondered where the Ho’Din that claimed this was safe and that they wouldn’t be disturbed. It was unnerving how easily Cuf had managed to gain access.

    "Aryan," Sybelle placed her arm around his waist, she had not meant to exclude him in the discussion. She looked up and studied his face for a second before asking, "Do you want to leave? Do you still feel safe in this place, after recent events?" Her head made an exaggerated tilt in Cuf’s direction.

    There was a reflexive jolt when Sybelle touched him, almost as if his muscles decided to involuntarily spasm under the stimulation. It was probably his anxiety, though he didn’t take the time to analyze it. There was no point; everything was a jumbled mess. His thoughts were in disarray as he struggled to follow the conversation between Sybelle and Cuf, even as it pertained to finding Arek. It was as if he wasn’t truly there

    However, the physical contact helped to bring some clarity; it provided an anchor for him to reorient his mind. The answer also came to him quickly, like an impulsive spark rising to the surface of his awareness. He knew he required medical intervention to help with his mental incapacities, and Dr. Sompa could certainly supply him with that care—but there was no denying what he really wanted at that moment. Cuf's arrival had changed everything. This facility was no longer a refuge.

    "This… planet," Aryan uttered softly, his voice loud enough for only Sybelle to hear. "It’s not safe… it—it’s evil. I can’t stay here."

    Pedric Cuf looked at Aryan, clearly appreciating how mad he was. "I'd rather you stay put, of course," he said, peeved. "I want to speak to you both about Bedlam, of course." Not that this Sybelle ever went to Bedlam... but Cuf wouldn't know that.

    "Give me twenty-four Nouanese hours to find Arek Graul, and then we can discuss the other things."

    He eyed Sybelle. "Catch." From a pocket came the strangest thing for her to catch.

    A lightsaber.

    Aryan’s plea was almost enough for Sybelle to tell Cuff no, but she knew they would regret it later if they didn’t try to find him before they left Nouane.

    Sybelle pulled him in close, and she leaned in to place her forehead against Aryan’s forehead. "It’s critical that we try and locate Arek," she said softly, "Can you hold on for a day to allow Cuf to search for him?" Sybelle asked. "I will help you, love… then in twenty-four hours we leave," she promised Aryan in a solemn tone.

    She glanced up in time for Cuf’s prompt to catch.

    The weapon landed neatly in her hands. Sybelle almost lovingly stroked the cool metal of the hilt, it was her way of showing respect to the weapon.

    Once she was done, she looked to Cuf and mouthed the words, 'thank you'.

    Aryan kept his forehead pressed against Sybelle, his lower lip trembling slightly. Slowly, he closed and reopened his eyes as if to center himself, contemplating the plan she had relayed to him concerning Arek’s search. It sounded feasible on the surface, but he couldn’t focus on the logistics. He was too ashamed of his own selfish behavior; his panic had nearly cost him everything.

    If they had left, he would’ve abandoned his son—

    He gasped and shook his head vigorously, trying to push that notion from his mind. He didn’t want to consider it; not yet. Not now.

    "T–Twenty-four hours," Aryan confirmed faintly, his head still lowered to conceal his face. He wasn’t only hiding from himself but the Darkness that continued to impress upon him. "And we don’t… leave these quarters. It’s… safer here than out there."

    Sybelle placed her arms around him and pulled his head against her breast, she put her face into his hair and sighed softly while cradling him gently and whispering soothing words.

    After a moment she turned her head to face Cuf and spoke, "Twenty-four hours and then we are gone, please find him, Cuff. We will be here, and I’m not leaving Aryan’s side." It was maddening that she had to trust this bizarre stranger, Sybelle stared at him and mouthed 'please' to emphasize how important it was that Arek be found.

    Her full attention then went to comforting Aryan. She whispered, "I love you," as she held him close.

    Aryan remained silent for a long moment, relishing the warmth of Sybelle’s presence. He did not want to remove himself from her embrace and found himself moving closer to reaffirm that point, burying his face into her tunic. He felt safe here. Perhaps it was the only place he could feel safe.

    "I–I love you," he murmured in return, his voice muffled as he spoke. "Don’t… ever leave me again."

    TAG: @Lady_Belligerent; @Sinrebirth
     
  13. Sinrebirth

    Sinrebirth Mod-Emperor of the EUC, Lit, RPF and SWC star 10 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Nov 15, 2004
    Ten Hours Later; the morning of the next day

    Whatever they were up to, it was interrupted by a rap on the door.

    "It's Doctor Sompa," came the voice over the intercom. "I've some conclusions, some medical, some... other."

    He paused. "Might I come in?"

    "Oh, I should mention, I'll be bringing with me my assistant droid, 11-4D. He has an advanced psychology profile, and experience with your... conditions."

    "Certainly I do," the droid intoned. "I have a great deal of profiles of humans."

    His tone was slightly pinched, but that was a droid for you.

    "I am eager to assist."

    The strange thing was, that neither of them would be able to sense anything outside the door.

    It wasn't like how Pedric Cuf felt, no. He was like a void the Force could be poured into.

    This felt like something keeping the Force out.

    TAG: @HanSolo29, @Lady_Belligerent (combo)
    ---

    Elsewhere

    Pedric Cuf hadn't expected finding a young man to be so difficult.

    But one human looked like the other, he thought absently.

    "Where is he?" He snapped at one of his assistants. Someone who knew his true identity.

    "We dunno, Cuf."

    Pedric seethed, but doubled down on his thinking processes. "Sybelle didn't recognise me. Which means, as we suspected, she's not our Sybelle."

    He bared his teeth.

    "We might be closer to the truth than ever before."

    A glimmer of scheming entered his eye.

    The other remained dull.

    "Perhaps Supreme Overlord Nom Anor will happen after all."

    TAG: No-One
     
    HanSolo29 likes this.
  14. HanSolo29

    HanSolo29 RPF/SWC/Fan Art Manager & Bill Pullman Connoisseur star 7 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Apr 13, 2001
    OOC: The following is a tense combo with Lady_B and Sinrebirth – thank you!!

    IC: Sybelle and Aryan Graul
    Private Chamber, Nouane

    The room was silent in the wake of Cuf’s departure.

    Sybelle wasn’t sure what Aryan was thinking of, but she hoped he wouldn’t remember that he was angry that she didn’t come back to him.

    Suddenly she was exhausted. So much had happened in a short time and they barely had time to recover before Cuf had appeared.

    Her legs were shaky when she sat down on the sofa and leaned back into the cushions. Their reunion had been like nothing she’d imagined.

    Over the years Sybelle had imagined Aryan finding out the truth and coming for her. Maybe Sybelle was a fool for believing she would tell Aryan the truth.

    Sighing heavily, she tried to push aside the hurt from him thinking it had been her choice to stay away.

    For his part, Aryan stared at her from across the room, unable to divert his eyes.

    [​IMG]

    A rift had grown between them in the relative peace that followed. Sybelle, without an explanation, had retreated from his presence to sit alone on the battered sofa. It was a devastating move in its own right; Aryan wasn’t sure what had triggered it. One minute, everything had seemed perfect as she cradled him in her arms—and then she had effectively shattered his world by removing his sanctuary.

    The Darkness quickly filled the void in its absence, surging back with a vengeance and crippling Aryan’s mental faculties. This allowed the voices to fester. They started with quiet whispers at the back of his mind that soon crescendoed into a dissonant chorus. Reflexively, he tore his gaze away from Sybelle and placed his hands on either side of his head in an effort to expel them from his thoughts, but it was a fruitless gesture.

    They persisted; they mocked him.

    This was why he wanted to leave Nouane!

    But Arek.

    A groan escaped his lips.

    No, he had to endure… for him.

    Still lying on the floor, Aryan rolled over and tried to sleep. If he could clear his mind enough to drift off, it would go much faster that way. He propped his head up, using his hand as a makeshift pillow as he willed himself to forget about Sybelle’s rejection.

    Nevertheless, one lingering thought continued to trouble him; perhaps her actions were merely more proof that she had moved on. Whatever the reason, he would respect her wishes and let her be.

    [​IMG]

    Sybelle had not slept, she had just cleared her thoughts, trying to make sense of what to do next.

    Aryan’s groan startled Sybelle. She didn’t move, instead, she watched him closely. It was so hard to think about what they had missed, a lifetime that was lost…

    Then his feelings seeped into her consciousness. It was like a blade slowly being pressed into her chest.

    He believed she had moved on, how had she moved on? She barely existed after she was sent away by Lyz Graul and then later threatened. Then the unspeakable… They made good on their threats and killed Aryan’s daughter.

    She couldn’t tell him the truth… and now he thought she rejected him.

    No, Aryan… I never moved on. She had not meant to withdraw from their bond. Sybelle just needed time to reset, and to calm her own feelings. She should’ve realized it would be upsetting to Aryan, he was still too fragile and needed her.

    Sighing she stood and went to Aryan, she knelt at his side and whispered for him to come to bed. "You will be more comfortable on the bed," Sybelle urged Aryan. "We both need some rest, and I want to be near you… if that’s okay?" she asked.

    The sound of her voice startled him, causing his body to noticeably jolt as he turned to confront her. His fearful eyes searched the area erratically before finally settling on Sybelle’s face. Only then did a hint of clarity pass over his features, allowing him to relax—though it was evident from his demeanor that he was still distraught.

    His mental fog made it difficult to process the world around him, but… had he heard her correctly? She wanted to remain by his side?

    That… didn’t make sense. Nothing made sense anymore.

    "I–I don’t understand," Aryan murmured after a short pause, shaking his head in an attempt to keep his voice from trembling. "I thought you—I, uh… I mean… you helped me with Cuf, but you m–made your decision… all those years ago. I accept that." He nodded slowly, trying to convince himself. "But…"

    Aryan exhaled sharply, his eyes shining with the onset of tears. "I–I don’t know what else you want… from me."

    Sybelle sighed softly, closing her eyes she said, "I want nothing from you, Aryan." She sounded defeated.

    Now leaned back, legs tucked under her, she respected his body language that suggested she not touch him.

    "I wish I could explain…" Her sad voice trailed off.

    "I guess that I thought you knew me better," Sybelle paused, willing herself not to cry. She had shed enough tears over the years and eventually had settled into a perpetual state of numbness. Only now the pain was coming back… he had stoked it by blaming her for leaving.

    "You’re mistaken if you believe I made any decision," she whispered. Her eyes were vacant, expression distant.

    She could hear the threats echoing through her mind, her hands touching the unmistakable bulge beneath her cloak.

    Then it had been made clear that Aryan wanted nothing to do with her or her filthy half-breed. She made a soft gasp and looked away while blinking.

    The cacophony of voices swirling inside his head continued to impede his cognitive functioning, but through the sound of Sybelle’s voice, he was able to follow a pathway to the forefront of his mind and glimpse a glimmer of hope. However, there was no physical element to attach himself to; it was more of a feeling. It reminded him of a spark, except it wasn’t composed of light. Not fully. The surface had grown dull, seemingly subdued by a sense of foreboding and despair. It took all of Aryan’s willpower to penetrate the exterior and discover the heart at its core.

    It was the bond he had shared with Sybelle. He recognized it immediately.

    Except—

    Aryan flinched and recoiled from the intrusive thoughts he found inside.

    There was pain; so much pain.

    Suffering.

    And resentment…

    Resentment?

    … over the rejection of—

    Aryan gasped, sweat beading up on his forehead as he tried to formulate the words in his mind.

    "Filthy… half-breed?" he strained through clenched teeth, his face turning red with the exertion.

    And then it all stopped.

    Aryan sat up sharply, his blue eyes blazing with a fierce intensity as he sought Sybelle’s gaze for answers. "What was that?" he demanded in a hoarse whisper, his heart beating rapidly against his chest. The fear in his voice was palpable. "Wh–what are you hiding from me?"

    When Sybelle failed to immediately reply, he lost all impulse control, devolving into a childlike tantrum that exposed the true extent of his mental illness.

    "Godsdammit!" he shouted harshly, spittle flying from his mouth and tears streaming down his cheeks. "D–Don’t sit there and tell—tell me you can’t explain! You can, Sybelle! Stop being so damned cryptic and t–talk to me! T–This involves me too!"

    As he entangled his fingers through his hair, he unleashed a feral yell and began to openly sob.

    Sybelle flinched at his outburst.

    She had foolishly thought that Aryan wasn’t able to feel her thoughts, the bond they had once shared should’ve still been severed. The weariness of the last day was setting in, but that didn’t mean she could let her guard down.

    Aryan’s sobs were gut-wrenching, especially since she was solely at fault for causing his distress. Sybelle briefly considered calling for the doctor, but she wasn’t at all sure if he could be trusted. For all she knew he would sedate Aryan against their wishes. No one should’ve known where they were, yet the stranger Cuf had found them.

    Sybelle slowly stood and picked up a folded blanket from the foot of the bed, she took it to where Aryan lay on the floor and gently covered him. "We’ll talk when you’re stronger," she whispered under her breath. It was likely that she wouldn’t explain herself to Aryan. Sybelle had a fairly strong notion of what the future held, so why should she dig up the past? It wouldn’t change a thing.

    Her head hurt from thinking about it, and from Cuf. It was possible that he wouldn’t come back with Arek… he could be anywhere by now.

    She took a pillow from the bed and went back to the sofa to lay down, not to sleep though, that would have to wait until she felt safe.

    Her response—her rejection, seemed to paralyze him. Aryan merely stared after her with his mouth agape, the blanket she had provided draped loosely over his body. But despite its protective embrace, he continued to tremble. He could not cry anymore; his tears had run dry. Instead, it felt as if a gaping hole had opened within his chest, swallowing up all of his thoughts and emotions like the gravitational pull of a black hole. The infinite void silenced the voices and left him numb—if only temporarily.

    After Sybelle retreated to the sofa and settled down, Aryan resigned himself to his miserable existence. He rolled over onto his side, curling up into a fetal position, and stared blankly into the darkness that soon encompassed the room.

    Eventually, his eyes began to burn with exhaustion, forcing him to close them. However, he was unable to drift off into oblivion. Only a restless sleep awaited him.

    TAG: @Lady_Belligerent; @Sinrebirth
     
  15. Sinrebirth

    Sinrebirth Mod-Emperor of the EUC, Lit, RPF and SWC star 10 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Nov 15, 2004
    IC: Pedric Cuf

    Wandering the streets of Nouane, like a shadow with a face, was mildly appealing to Nom Anor.

    While, yes, he was an advance agent of the Yuuzhan Vong Empire, of the Supreme Overlord and Warmaster, he, too, was in it for himself.

    The man had a variety of schemes bubbling away.

    Once upon a time he had been happy just to scheme for it's own sake. To show to the infidel mind how much more brilliant he was.

    But this was not the New Republic's first engagement with an unknown species; he studied the Nagai, the Tofs, the Ssi-Ruuvi, and while they were all cursed as infidels, they were useful parallels to study. So too, were once the Sith, an alien invader from the Unknown Regions. Indeed, they were made so potent by the exiles of the Republic, a kind of cyclic destruction that satisfied Nom Anor so.

    The Empire had been easy enough to tear down. To undo the Crimson Emperors, and later Ederlathh. It had been rather telling that this was not his Sybelle, because she didn't know him... which was useful.

    But it confirmed the secret he was keeping from High Command, from the worldship convoy that would hit this galaxy in fifteen years or so.

    The secret of the Epitaph. The Ones, the Darknesses, and the Change. Researching the natural enemies of the Jedi, the Sith, that had led him some of the way.

    But now he needed to isolate Sybelle and the temporally displaced - not actually insane - Aryan Graul to study.

    Or torture, he supposed.

    If he had Arek as well, he'd be able to investigate those little rumours about Norin Graul and his son, how Force sensitivity skipped a generation. Or was taken by the younger, as if shared.

    And if it could be shared, perhaps Nom Anor could take it.

    Imagine, him, with the powers of a Yammosk, able to puppet the Supreme Overlord?

    A dry, dark chuckle.

    His eye was suddenly drawn up, to the shadowed space between buildings, a large enough area but secluded, behind the great Clock Tower.

    That was a ship.

    A dipyramid ship.

    Small, slightly bigger than a starfighter, not as big as a YT-1300, but definitely in the range of a blastboat.

    He hadn't heard it enter orbit; there had been no announcement. Was it that silent?

    Or had it merely appeared?

    Nom Anor felt his heart beat with excitement.

    Had his poking around into the Epitaph caught someone's eye?

    Little did he know, that ship, that miniature Tho Yor, it was the personal meditation craft of Braata and Ike.

    He looked out the ship, a wall becoming transparent.

    "We're here," Ike said drily.

    TAG: @Lady_Belligerent, @HanSolo29 (mention for the latter)
     
  16. Lady_Belligerent

    Lady_Belligerent Queen of the RPF, SWC, C&P, and Pancakes & Waffles star 10 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jan 29, 2008
    OOC: A very fun combo with @Sinrebirth writing all his spectacular characters, thanks!


    IC: Braata & Ike and other surprises guests

    Nouane

    Bell was startled out of her thoughts when Ike mentioned their arrival.

    “Yeah, we’re here,” she agreed quietly.

    Bellorum hadn’t spent a lot of time away from Aryan in the past, and she knew that he was busy working out something that was important, but she still missed him. It had occurred to her that maybe she’d been misled that they could reach out to each other over space and time, that was a detail she would have to suck up for now since it was clearly a little late to put up a fuss.

    Sighing, she glanced over the city skyline, she couldn’t recall when she’d been there in the past, yet she felt oddly familiar with what she was seeing. Some were good memories, but some were unpleasant.

    When she saw the clock tower she knew. “There,” she pointed, “that’s where we should go.” Her mouth opened to say more, but she suddenly stopped. She’d found him.

    “It’s Aryan, he’s there!”

    "Excuse me," said Pedric Cuf, stepping forward towards them.

    Ike turned slightly, frowned when he couldn't sense the man with the Force.

    Yuuzhan Vong? Powerful Force user?

    When Braata looked at Pedric Cuf, she saw him through the eyes of a One of One; he didn't exist outside the Force, just the spectrum that Ike could see. She could see him just fine, because she saw with the Unifying Force. Ike, he could only see with the Living Force.

    This would be the first time she saw the difference.

    How different she was.

    "Might I be speaking to an... Epitaph user?"

    Bell squinted at Cuf and asked, “pardon me? Did you just call me an epithet?”

    She’d only been a Goddess a few hours and now this freak finds her? It doesn’t seem plausible that this could be a coincidence.

    “I think you’ve mistaken me for someone else,” she insisted and linked her arm with Ike’s. “Shall we?” She asked.

    "Epitaph," Pedric Cuf said, insisted. "I've been looking for Black Coats -"

    He rushed to keep up with her. "Can we please speak -"

    Ike would have batted Cuf aside, but he couldn't, not with the Force, and so affected disinterest.

    “Now that’s something I happen to know about,” Braata exclaimed. She comically circled Cuf ‘sizing him up’.

    “A balmacaan, might be nice but not many tailors have made them for centuries,” she mused, “avoid a casaquin.” Braata leaned in and stage whispered, “it might be a little nipped in at the waist for you, I’d try a Chesterfield.” She held her hand up and gave a little dismissive wave, “I won’t charge for my fashion advice… this time. Good luck finding those black coats, sir.”

    The fanciful banter ended there.

    Her eyes hardened.

    She might have had more patience, but she’d felt Aryan, and something seemed to be wrong.

    “Now, go away,” she said through clenched teeth.

    Pedric Cuf grit his teeth back, but took a breath. "Fine, I take your meaning."

    He put his hands in his pockets. "I just wanted to speak to you about Changes, and how each Change creates a new Darkness. I wanted to know how you get around that problem." He shrugged. "Palpatine's research was about how to perform Changes without doing that. It wasn't very difficult to cause a Change in principle, but the warnings that an Old One would destroy the reality, well, that seemed like something I should keep in mind before trying it."

    Ike froze. "Pardon?"

    "I already have a lead to a Holocron of Prophecy so I can work out what to Change, you see."

    “I see alright,” Bell snapped, “what I see is that I’ve been here only moments and we’re stopped on the street by you. Were you waiting on me?” Her hand went up for silence.

    “No, I think not,” she answered herself. She glanced over at Ike, something told her not to trust this creep, but she wanted to give Ike a chance to give her some indication of his own thoughts.

    “Next you dangle out a holocron to someone who is a total stranger to you?” She scoffed, a habit of Aryan’s that she suddenly realized she’d picked up. “You’re not going to gain any credibility by continuing this conversation.”

    Once again, she turned away, “good evening,” she called over her shoulder while leading Ike away.

    “I don’t have a Holocron of Prophecy,” Pedric said testily. “I just know where one might be.”

    Ike put a hand on Braata’s arm. “Bel - Braata, do Changes make more Darknesses? I’ve never heard of that.” A rivulet of sweat ran down his face.

    Cuf’s eyes widened at the name, but he was unreadable to Ike.

    Braata sighed and placed her hand over Ike’s.

    “No,” she said firmly, “don’t listen to him.”

    She couldn’t recall having that conversation with the Master, if a change did indeed cause a new Darkness then it would’ve been nice to know.

    “This discussion is over,” she glanced around wondering if they’d been heard, “I have business elsewhere. I suggest you stop speaking of holocrons and changes in public spaces.”

    Pedric Cuf pursed his lips. "Well, I've Aryan Graul and Sybelle, I am sure they can explain it to me."

    Ike paused. "I just remembered who Pedric Cuf was."

    He brandished a finger. "That was a psuedonym for Nom Anor."

    "In the flesh. And you remembered me?" He grinned, and placed a finger on his human nose. His skin unfolded, and suddenly, in the shadows of an alleyway on Nouane -

    He was here.

    [​IMG]


    “What have you done with Aryan and Sybelle?” She asked angrily.

    “I feel them, and they aren’t far away,” Braata said. “What do we do with this sleemo?” She asked Ike.

    He hesitated, and realised it was best for him to speak the truth. "They're at a medical facility here; Aryan is suffering from being tortured by a Sith Lord. I've agreed to help him find his son, Arek Graul, who has gone missing, in exchange for information about the Epitaph, and the Master of Masters..."

    Braata wouldn't be able to find Arek on-world; he was not here.

    Ike was about ready to stab Nom Anor to death. "I am gonna guess that we can't kill him..."

    “Ha!” She exclaimed, releasing Ike’s arm she stepped in closer to Cuf and said, “if I find that you’ve touched a hair on Aryan’s magnificent head, or if you’re the one who tortured him… I will kill you.”

    Braata leaned in closer, and her words were whisper soft, “do not kriff with me where Aryan Graul is involved. Understood?”

    Nom Anor glowered at her, but an icy rivulet of fear filled him. "Understood."

    Swallowing, he focused. "I've not hurt him whatsoever."

    "I have," came a female voice, and it was unmasked in the Force as a whip snaked around Ike's neck.

    [​IMG]

    “NO!” Braata roared. She quickly grabbed the air, attempting to pull the whip from Ike’s neck, at the same time lightning burst from her opposite hand towards the woman. “This is between you and I, don’t drag him into it,” she said. Hopefully Ike would keep tabs on Cuf, if she could get him from off the light whip.

    “What did you do to Aryan?” she demanded.

    Lumiya twirled, unfurling her whip and igniting it to send the lightning bolt scattering into a variety of directions -

    Ike ducked down, dove for Nom Anor, and missed his legs as the Yuuzhan Vong began to run.

    "I needed to know about the Epitaph," Lumiya said lightly. A whip-crack sent the dazzling weapons direct at Braata's eyes -

    "And pain is always the swiftest way to reveal such things."

    “Find Aryan, protect him from Cuf,” Braata called over her shoulder to Ike while she stared the crazed Sith woman down.

    She ignited her violet blade and waved it widely, using it to gather Lumiya’s barrage of ‘bolts, only a few got past her blade, and sizzled as they arced over her leather pants.

    Lumiya’s attack on Braata’s eyes stung, but she could still see well enough to make out shapes.

    It was enough to see her target. Braata held up her lightsaber that was buzzing from the overload of lightning she’d gathered from Lumiya’s whip attack, she jerked her blade and used the Force to shove the shimmering mass of energy up the length of Lumiya’s whip.

    “How’re those cybernetics holding up?” Bell asked. “The upkeep must be a nightmare

    She attacked mentally, forcing the woman to relive her horrid disfiguring injuries and then being rebuilt in Vader’s laboratory. “You said pain is the swiftest way to reveal things… who sent you here?”

    "Pain is an old friend, my Lady." Lumiya pivoted upon the mind-spear, redirecting it outside of her mind, and a chunk of the wall exploded behind her -

    She released the lightwhip, crackling with power, and she thrust out a hand, sending it towards Braata -

    Her other hand she held palm-up, and fired a blaster bolt from it at Braata's throat -

    Ike was already gone, chasing Pedric Cuf -

    Braata waved the whip aside, and used her lightsaber to deflect the bolt directly back at Lumiya.

    This was taking too long, and she was worried that Ike seemed to be going the opposite direction than she’d requested. That could be problematic if Cuf was luring him away on purpose. She’d have to trust that Ike could hold his own.

    This needed to end, Braata just wanted to see Aryan and Sybelle, why did everything have to be a damned fight?

    She pointed to the ground beneath her attacker’s feet and willed flames to erupt, all while using the Force to try and hold Lumiya in place. “Let’s see if those droid parts can take the heat,” she taunted.

    The bolt Lumiya took on the back of her hand, revealing cybernetics, but she stepped back nonetheless, digging her fingers into her thigh -

    When Braata cast pyrokinesis at her feet, Lumiya leapt up, and forward, springing as she did -

    A lightwhip wrenched from a cavity in her thigh - also cybernetic - and she ignited it as she swung it down at Braata, with all the force she could muster -

    “Of course the bitch has an extra,” Braata grumbled.

    She used the Force to grasp the lightwhip and yanked it hard. “Those things are so damned annoying,” Braata said angrily, the whips were keeping her from getting in closer.

    At this point Braata was starting to get a little concerned that maybe she should’ve called Ike back to help her… or should she just walk away?

    No! This witch had bragged that she tortured Aryan, and there was no walking away from that.

    Braata dropped her blade and reached out with both hands in tight fists that grabbed at Lumiya. In her mind she would jerk her up by the neck to shake her like a child’s toy.

    “I will crush your throat for laying a hand on Aryan Graul!” She growled, her hands trembled from the rage she felt.

    “You will never touch him again.” Braata glanced down at one of the discarded lightwhips and pointed at it, the whip lifted from the ground. It snapped to life to lash it’s owner.

    Lumiya writhed, and struggled, flinging out a Force punch that slammed into Braata but her coat absorbed most of it.

    The woman’s eyes bugged out as her breath caught, and she had a flashback to floating in space, dying, limbless, missing her chin too -

    So she grabbed at the discarded blade that Braata had dropped, ignited the blade with her mind, and tried to run it through her throat -

    Her last attack was to drive a thought into Braata’s mind’s eye. That she’d lied, and had never tortured Aryan, only that she had found him, kept him out of Palpatine’s hands out of spite, and she saved him from Bedlam -

    Braata’s lightsaber extinguished the moment Lumiya tried to use it on her, the kyber crystal refused to cooperate with injuring it’s lady.

    It was idiocy to lie to her. Joren’s memories were all shared with her, and there had not been time to fully explore what her soulmate had endured, but now highlights of what Lumiya had done flashed through her thoughts.

    “You fool,” Braata said, teeth clenched, “I know everything you did.”

    The pressure on Lumiya’s throat eased only enough to keep her conscious while Braata forced memories into her mind… except she replaced Aryan’s limp and battered body with Lumiya.

    “How do those sessions feel?” She sneered at the dangling Sith Lady.

    “You will never be alone, and you’ll never rest because I’ll be there haunting your dreams. Do you like having your dignity ripped away and your very body invaded?” Braata demanded.

    Images of a starving and filthy Lumiya, too weak to lift her head were driven into her memory like a shard of ice. “I want you to feel that pain and humiliation before you die!”

    Lumiya resisted, she really did, but she wasn't as powerful as Braata, not even before her body was more machine than woman.

    She choked, tried to speak.

    "I gave my word -"

    She was gasping, now.

    "I swore an oath -"

    There was a shimmer, and a purple-black ovoid appeared besides her.

    [​IMG]

    A Black Coat stepped through.

    [​IMG]

    "Well hello there," the Master of Masters groused. "I had a warning of a Change and came right here."

    Lumiya was nearly dead.

    "What are you doing, Braata?"

    “Don’t fret,” she answered, “I didn’t kill her. Does almost killing create a Change? If so then I’m going to need more specific instructions so I don’t kriff up hourly.”

    Sighing, Braata lowered the annoying woman to the ground and released her grip.

    “And don’t look at me like [/i] I did something wrong. Ike and I were stopped by Cuf within moments of arriving, and then she attacked us while saying that she harmed Aryan,” Braata said.

    Braata picked up the hilt of her lightsaber and tucked it away.

    “You don’t know your power; I don’t know your power.” His hands he placed on his chest. “You don’t know me; I don’t know you. Braata was always the darkest of my students but I know it has its place. I don’t define Balance as the destruction of the Dark, like the Jedi too.” He crouched besides Lumiya, who was unconscious.

    “I’d say she was a slither from death.”

    “But what do I know? I’m just a mortal who had his name stolen.” The Master shrugged. “So, what do you want to do now?”

    Honestly… she was being made to feel like a child.

    “Were you at all listening when I said that not exploiting this thing was extremely important to me?” She asked.

    “If you don’t trust me, just imagine how I’m feeling? I’m not at all sure that you aren’t setting us up,” she held her hands out, feeling almost exasperated. “It seems a little strange that I’m minding my own business when Cuf finds us, and then suddenly she’s here and tried to strangle Ike with her lightwhip.”

    She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, “I’m really concerned that I’m being played.”

    Braata rolled her eyes, over how he was so worried about her attacker, not that they had been attacked. She quickly said, “I was never going to kill her, I just wanted answers and she was about to give them before you stopped me. So, do you know who Lumiya swore an oath to?” Braata asked.

    “I don’t even know what to do now,” she finally answered his question. Looking around she felt completely alone, Ike had run off and she missed Aryan. Coming here may have been a big mistake.

    "Hey," the Master said, offended. "Who said I didn't trust you? I said I don't know you. Why?" He pouted. "Don't you trust me?"

    He squatted besides Lumiya. "Shall we rummage in her memories for what you want?"

    “I’m just not sure… let me ask you this. Have you revealed my identity to anyone?” She asked slowly. “And I don’t mean Ike, of course.”

    Braata stared thoughtfully at the Master, waiting and looking.

    She saw so much. Thoughts, words, and discussions… far away over space and time. Beings met and they plotted, some were for good reasons, others she found disheartening.

    There was an intricately woven plan of events spread across galaxies, and even one frayed thread would disrupt what was a beautiful pattern. One knave slipped into the weft could ruin the overall beauty of the future.

    “I feel a hint of disquiet. It’s away, but it’s a clear threat.” Her voice was soft and far away.

    After a moment, she shook her head, as if clearing her mind and to come back to the here and now.

    Braata was disappointed, and sad. It wouldn’t do any good to be melancholy, she decided that she would set things right. She would deal with what was at hand first. Lumiya.

    “Rummage through her memories?!” She asked incredulously. That was definitely a more cheerful possibility than other issues. Nodding slowly she went to kneel beside him.

    “I’m all about that! Let’s find out who she wouldn’t name.” Braata said, “I hope I didn’t come on too strong. I’m a bit outside my comfort zone, but I’m a fast learner.”

    "No, I haven't," he said, firmly. "Identity is something I take very seriously."

    "It would be rank hypocrisy for me to hand out an identity when I can't mine, after all." A slight shrug.

    He held up a finger, and then a hand to Braata. "I'll show you how to do this. Best to go inside together, after all."

    “Do you know who did, because I’m positive it’s been done,” Braata said, now concerned that Dunkeel and Joren were in danger.

    “Let’s get do this before she’s awake and wanting to kick my ass again.”

    “Well, let’s rummage in this one’s brain, and then we’ll rummage in Nom Anor’s after, shall we?” The Master’s voice was almost malevolent.

    He held his gloved hand up again to Braata, ready to place his finger on Lumiya’s brow.

    “Lead the way,” she replied and took the Master’s hand.

    A chill ran up her spine and she wondered if it was the anticipation of what they might learn, or was it something with her beloved.

    Her eyes closed and she willed him to feel her concern and to watch his back.

    tag: @Sinrebirth @HanSolo29 @Mitth_Fisto
     
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  17. Sinrebirth

    Sinrebirth Mod-Emperor of the EUC, Lit, RPF and SWC star 10 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Nov 15, 2004
    Lumiya's Mind's Eye

    They were in an apartment.

    On Coruscant.

    She was a little girl, playing with her toys, absently.

    Behind her, in another room, there was a commotion.

    "You can't just take Shira -" A man's voice.

    "We don't intend to take her, but she is marked by her blood test as a threat -" A gruff voice. Male.

    "She's four!" A woman, tearful.

    "Don't worry," the Master said, "they can't see or hear us. It appears we're in the first memory that little Shira Elan Colle Brie had."

    He squatted by the child, who had stopped mid-play to listen.

    The Master peered around his shoulder.

    "So, you realised it's not really me here. Or, Sistros did, and told you?"

    A flutter of his hand.

    "Go on, ask away."

    TAG: @Lady_Belligerent (combo)
     
  18. Lady_Belligerent

    Lady_Belligerent Queen of the RPF, SWC, C&P, and Pancakes & Waffles star 10 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jan 29, 2008
    A Combo with @Sinrebirth and @HanSolo29. Thanks for the fun!


    IC: Braata and a Darkness

    We have a problem. You miscalculated. Every Change spawns a new Darkness; they have returned.

    Braata felt a chill, she couldn’t focus on what was happening with the child. Joren’s voice was clear, things were very wrong.

    There had not been contact with Dunkeel, so she wondered if he had any idea what was happening.

    “Hold on.”

    Everything seemed to strike at once.

    She jerked her hand back and demanded, “what do you mean it’s not really you here?”

    This was too much, now it was about misrepresentation… lying!

    “Why did you lead me to believe you are the Master?” She asked, clearly agitated.

    ”I feel much betrayal, Joren. Should we find the others and meet?”

    "Because you don't appear to know the Master. You haven't been... twisted, by his lies."

    As they watched, little Shira Brie warped, and she was now standing in the Imperial Royal Academy, being lectured by Director Armand Isard, resplendent in his uniform. Besides him stood Lord Vader, who appeared to be staring directly at the young woman.

    The 'Master' stood. "I am as much the Master as I am anyone else, if only because the Master," he said glibly, "can't tell you his name even if he wanted to."

    Her head shook, “I said hold on! You’ve lied to me and I’m not having this!”
    She had had enough of the riddles and deceptions. They should’ve known that they’d been set up from the moment Cuf showed up.

    “You showed up and let me believe you were him,” Braata said through clenched teeth, “I merely assumed it was him since you acted like it. You could’ve let me know right away, and what’s it to you if I had killed her? Do you know what she bragged that she had done?”

    Letting her anger escalate could hinder her chances of actually seeing Sybelle and Aryan, but it would feel good to kick this arrogant arse around some.

    “Not considering that this cow attacked us, and I had no choice but to defend myself and Ike, why did you suddenly show up?” Braata demanded.

    "You're taking ques from a man with no face, and asking me why I lied?"

    A dry chuckle.

    He really did sound like the master.

    There memory shifted, and Shira was being briefed.

    About a man.

    A Senator.

    Aryan Graul.

    "Welll isn't that interesting. They do know each other."

    He lazily looked at Braata. "Do you still want out of this mind?"

    Braata ignored whatever-his-name was.

    “Aryan,” she whispered and studied him closely. He was so familiar, even though she had never touched him, she knew exactly what his lips felt like on hers.

    She knew exactly what it felt like to be in his arms… yet he had never taken her in his arms. Braata shivered, she needed to hear his voice.

    “More —,” was all she said, without taking her eyes off Aryan.

    "Thought so," he said drily.

    "Senator Graul comes from a family of Senate representatives. His father, Norin, was a Loyalist Senator, until his replacement..." The officer checked is datapad. "For security reasons."

    Shira knew that was the reason given whenever the Emperor wanted someone to vanish.

    "Aryan came of age and took the seat, one of the Corellian Senators that the sector is entitled to as a Core Founder of the Republic and thus Galactic Empire." Those historic anachronisms, which granted Core Worlds more seats than say a newly admitted sector in the Outer Rim, was oft cited as one of the innumerable reasons the Old Republic had been corrupt. Let alone allowing trade cartels as 'functional constituencies' to hold Senate seats. The Emperor had repudiated laws allowing companies such as the Banking Clan, Mining Guild or now defunct Trade Federation to vote in the Senate, but those ancient Core Worlds had apparently resisted, and the Emperor had been too busy ruling to deal with something that wasn't overly important to him.

    That being said, it meant Corellia had multiple Senators, and they remained the voice of their Sector, and thus Aryan Graul was important, powerful, and his file suggested he was being studied to become Moff, and perhaps eventually replace Grand Moff Flirry Vorru...

    "Your mission is to observe him at this function. An Emperor's Hand will also be present."

    The function in question was the anointing of some military ranks. It wasn't necessary information for them in this Intelligence briefing, apparently.

    "You will attend as a waitress." The officer smiled slightly. "Aryan Graul has a weakness for red heads, thus you having been chosen for this mission.”
    "Ho, ho, ho," he sniggered.

    With an audible sigh Braata said angrily, “their intell is rubbish,” she put her hand to her own hair to back up her statement.

    There had to be something she was overlooking, was this strange Black-Coat a darkness in disguise? Someone must have known she and Ike would be arriving, then Lumiya attacked Ike, knowing that would make Bellorum come for her. Braata was sure Cuf lured Ike away to take them on separately, then this guy entered stage right masquerading as the Master.

    Who the hell had set them up?

    “Can we forward to the useful parts?” She asked as her patience was waning. “She was sent to observe not torture, clearly you’re taking the long way to the parts that I want.”

    ”Fine.” A flutter, and the scene moved to an event of some kind. Pageantry. Attire resplendent, and a variety of those in the ridiculous Coruscanti garb of oversized hats.

    Shira was in a petite scarlet bodysuit, which left nothing to the imagination. A serving tray in one hand, as part of a repertoire of such servers. Four, all with red hair, each with striking green eyes.

    The Darkness chuckled. I really hope Aryan doesn’t have a type.

    Aryan was here, debonair and Senatorial, with his wife nowhere to be seen but a variety of other officials present. Senators Organa, Mothma, Bel Iblis, but also naval officers like Captain Pellaeon, Admirals Adar Tallon, Jan Dodonna, and even an Imperial private named Crix Madine. Moffs Tarkin and Vorru were evident too, and Tarkin even had his adjunct, a Mon Calamari slave named Ackbar. At the rear of the room was the throne, vacant but watched over by Grand Vizier Mas Amedda, who was glowering at everyone as he was want to do.

    What a crowd, the Black Coat said drily. He tilted his head. Do we think Palpatine will be attending today?

    Along the periphery of the room, Aryan had inserted himself among a group of female delegates, his towering frame evident above the crowd as he engaged them in conversation. His expression appeared confident, his speech cultured and suave, and his hand gesturing fervently to emphasize his zeal for the moment.

    No doubt his present company had an impact on those sentiments.

    "... it’s truly a vast complex," the Senator drawled with a charming smile. "Nestled in the heart of the Tallera Valley, the Graul Estate offers scenic views of the entire countryside, including the surrounding mountain ranges… we got plenty of those."

    He chuckled at his own expense, his gaze lingering surreptitiously on a particular red-head in a navy frock. He seemed to nod after appraising her physical attributes, concealing his lewd behavior by raising his drink glass to his lips.

    After a short pause, and an audible click of his tongue to convey his satisfaction, he continued.

    "Horse and orbak-riding, trail hiking, swimming," he scoffed and spread his hands, "there’s no limit to what we can offer our guests; if you can conceive of the possibility, we can probably find a way to do it. We’re all about recreational opportunities. So…"

    Reaching inside his jacket, he produced several data chips and doled them out to his captive audience. "Whenever you find yourself in the Corellian System, drop by Nubia and look us up. I’ll be happy to personally accommodate you." He winked and consumed the remaining contents of his glass in a single swallow. "Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to carry on with my rounds. It was a pleasure talking to you."

    Aryan nodded to them once more and moved away, sidling into the crowd—but not before stopping alongside one of the servers to replenish his drink. It was no coincidence that it was Lumiya. Judging by the sensual look that reflected in his gaze, her lavish dress and fiery hair had not gone unnoticed.

    He continued to stare as he set his empty glass on the tray and exchanged it for a full one. "I hope you’re enjoying your evening," he said in a gravelly baritone.

    Shira smiled wanly. "How could I not? The company is sublime, after all." She beamed, and adopted the most I'm so naive that you could spin me any yarn expression she had. But she was rather enjoying herself.

    There was a slight stir, and the conversation cut for the moment. Mas Amedda had stamped the floor with the base of his scepter. "All rise." Those who had been seated promptly did so.

    He was here.

    The breathing.

    The mechanical breathing.

    Darth Vader.

    And then, behind him, in silk black robes...

    The Emperor.

    Palpatine.

    He took his seat, and gestured with a skeletal hand. "Continue, the guest of honour is not yet here."

    His tone was amused.

    Slowly, the conversation began to pick up, while Vader scanned the crowd.

    His gaze settled on Braata.

    Ho, ho, he can see you.

    Meanwhile Palpatine stared at the Darkness.

    And he can see me. Oops.

    Palpatine smiled slightly, and indicated Vader should lean down so he may whisper to him.

    The Darkness turned to follow Palpatine's line of sight.

    Or they're staring at Aryan and Shira. Palpatine on one, Vader on the other...

    “Enough!” Braata growled. She didn’t want to watch her husband seduce Lumiya, it was something Braata did not need to experience, especially with the imposter next to her.

    This was from Aryan’s past! She felt like a filthy voyeur and what would she do if the imposter tried to make her watch… NO! Bile rose in her throat, she was close to hyperventilating.

    Intruding on Aryan’s past was against everything their relationship stood for.

    “I’ve seen enough. I’m leaving,” Braata insisted and pulled away.

    She certainly wanted to see what Palpatine and Vader had been up to, but her intuition was to get the hell away. Besides, she was here to find Sybelle and Aryan.

    The Black Coat - the Darkness - chuckled slightly. Your feelings betray you.

    A slight gesture, and the scene froze.

    Do you know why I am targeting you, Braata?

    “My guess is that I’m the Dark and your coat presents me with a challenge,” she answered, not bothering to conceal her frustration.

    “You’ve failed to show me anything useful here, so let’s see… you’ve managed to derail my reason for coming here.” Braata glared at her enemy, “you also managed to separate me from Ike, so I guess that was part of your plan.”

    What did she have to use against this thing? Her blade, sure… but there had to be more.

    Studying the frozen scene they stood in, Braata’s blade appeared in her hand, emitting a violet glow.

    “I said that I’ve seen enough, damn it!”

    Her mind was focused on the memory surrounding them. She poured her anger into the echoes that composed Lumiya’s recollections, willing them to shatter into millions of shards raining down onto them.

    “We are done here,” she said through clenched teeth as she rushed the Darkness with her weapon.


    Tag @Sinrebirth @HanSolo29
     
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  19. Sinrebirth

    Sinrebirth Mod-Emperor of the EUC, Lit, RPF and SWC star 10 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Nov 15, 2004
    IC: The Darkness in a Black Coat

    The interplay was interrupted with a yank by the Darkness.

    It clearly wasn't the Master of Masters, after all.

    The yank threw the scene into calamity.

    He'd intervened.

    In a mind-scape?

    No?

    The past?

    How?

    But before Braata hung Aryan Graul; a human shield.

    From 7 BBY.

    Moff Vorru fell from his chair in surprise.

    Palpatine hissed.

    Darth Vader ignited his blade.

    Oh no, the Darkness said absently. They can see us.

    For her part, Shira grit her teeth and screamed, shrill, like a terrified waitress was.

    She hated this role.

    The other waitresses, oft green eyed and red haired, gave her a look and then ran out screaming.

    Starting a rush.

    The reason I'm targeting you is because you are in love with a man you truly don't understand.

    He dangled Aryan by the neck. This man.

    TAG: @Lady_Belligerent, @HanSolo29 (combo)
     
  20. HanSolo29

    HanSolo29 RPF/SWC/Fan Art Manager & Bill Pullman Connoisseur star 7 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Apr 13, 2001
    OOC: The following is a combo with Lady_B and Sinrebirth – thank you so much!! [:D]

    IC: Braata, Sistros, the Darkness, and Lumiya
    A Mindscape

    "For kriffsake," she said angrily.

    "Cease this nonsense," Braata demanded and moved to take Aryan from the clutches of the Darkness. "If there’s any hanging, it will be you when I finally snap!" Braata blurted over her shoulder to the Darkness.

    "Get out!" She growled at those who still stood watching, "Go on, out!"

    Braata turned Aryan so that she didn’t allow the Darkness to get behind her, "listen closely, Aryan," she murmured. She leaned her forehead against his and spoke as softly as possible.

    "Think, my darling, the memories are there, we just need to awaken them."

    The words she spoke echoed in her mind, "I need you, my Sistros. You are the Light to my Dark, and you can help me deal with this intrusion into the redhead’s memories." Not to mention saving my arse, she thought.

    Her lips touched his for only a moment, but that was long enough for her to feel the copies of his memories being pulled from her, into Aryan Graul. Her eyes widened watching the wisp-like memories flowing between them.

    Her hand rested on Aryan’s cheek.

    "He is vulnerable to the light," Braata swallowed, "toast him!"

    Deep violet sprang from her fingertips.

    A cacophony reached Aryan’s ears as the reception descended into chaos: screaming, cursing, and crying. The discordant voices converged to become the epitome of terror. It was a fitting reaction, considering the room had just witnessed two mysterious figures materializing out of thin air—a female humanoid with blue skin and a man clad in a black cloak.

    Unfortunately for Aryan, he had the displeasure of becoming the focus of their attention. He attributed this setback to mere happenstance; he had simply been in the wrong place at the wrong time. However, as he hung above the crowd, suspended by the Black-Coat’s powerful grip, he felt compelled to reconsider his stance.

    Did this man… know him?!

    And how dare he presume that he felt any kind of affection for this… this

    He wanted to insult the female’s non-human existence, but as he inclined his chin to glare at her exotic form, he ceased his ongoing struggle against his captor and allowed his jaw to fall unhinged; the blue complexion and delicate features—why hadn’t he seen it before? Was it simple denial… or something else? Either way, he couldn’t dismiss what he was perceiving.

    "S–Sybelle?" Aryan croaked weakly as the Black-Coat continued to restrict his neck.

    That single word seemed to invite her in. The woman tentatively approached and gently caressed his cheek, forcing the cloaked figure to relinquish his grip. She then encompassed his face in her hands, whispering quiet platitudes until she was mere inches from his lips.

    Suddenly, a white light engulfed the entire room.

    Aryan heard himself cry out as a sharp, stabbing pain penetrated his psyche. Memories and images drifted past his mind’s eye, representing a wealth of knowledge from across the galaxy… and beyond. It was more than he could possibly retain, and he feared that the onslaught would break him before he had an opportunity to assess what he had seen.

    The pressure continued to mount as darkness began to encroach on the fringes of his awareness.

    He felt himself drifting…

    And then—

    Sistros blinked and opened his eyes, surveying the scene that slowly came into focus. It was once a festive atmosphere, but now panic gripped the attendees, their anxiety and fear bleating into the Force with an intense ferocity. However, he was able to quell its effects, allowing him a moment to think… to stretch out… to see

    That’s when he felt her.

    "Bell," Sistros uttered with a small smile, relief flooding his senses. Her sudden disappearance had left a gaping void in his chest, as if a part of his soul had vanished. He never wanted to experience that hollow feeling again.

    "What happened? I thought you—" he tried to express those sentiments to her, but two things prevented him from properly articulating his thoughts. The first was his own embarrassment over conveying such complicated emotions and the other was the Darkness that appeared to loom over the scene.

    Braata had already turned to attack, instructing him to accompany her to defeat their mutual foe. Sistros was more than happy to oblige.

    Turning on his heel, he unleashed a torrent of yellow lightning to compliment her plume of purple. The two twisted and congealed to become one.

    The Darkness took both bolts, one at close range, and one at distance, but tumbled nonetheless.

    Memory.

    They were Changing memory.

    Emperor Palpatine narrowed his eyes.

    Darth Vader scowled.

    Shira Brie - Lumiya - her mind buckled against this violation of her own sense of self.

    The Darkness erupted into flame, and then he pushed those flames behind him, consuming half a dozen patrons.

    He threw back his cloak hood, revealing red hair.

    Ben Skywalker's hair.

    [​IMG]

    "Ha!"

    Then Shira's mind PUSHED AT THEM.

    OUT OUT OUT.

    "Seriously!?" Braata exclaimed.

    "Who the hell are you?" She demanded, her patience had long since been exhausted. Her violet blade went up, and she was prepared to strike the young man down.

    "Now you decide to wake up and end this game? I wanted out of your tainted mind from the start, bitch."

    "Whoa, easy!" Sistros exclaimed as he held out a hand and stepped between them to act as mediator. "Take it easy, alright?"

    His free hand fell to his belt and curled around his saber hilt, though he did not ignite it—not yet. This was a delicate situation, and he would need to tread carefully. He could already feel the pressure of Lumiya’s exposed mind pressing upon them, willing them to leave her sanctuary and release her from her suffering. However, he could not grant her that reprieve until he found a way to cripple the Darkness and ensure that it would not flee another timeline.

    Exhaling slowly, Sistros canted his head to the side and inched closer, extending his hand. "Ben," he called soothingly, reaching out with the Force to bypass the Darkness and penetrate the young man’s mind. "Ben, listen to me… I need you to take my hand. You can trust me. Break free from this monstrosity. You can do that… I know you can. Just—nice and slow…"

    As he appealed to Ben, Sistros tapped into the bond he shared with Braata, silently conveying his intentions: Lumiya’s will would eventually dispel them from this mindscape, and when that occurred, he hoped to drag Ben Skywalker with them. That would leave the Darkness trapped inside the Dark Lady’s mind. When they returned to the physical realm, he needed Braata to intervene and keep Lumiya incapacitated. She would essentially become a prison for the Darkness until they could dispose of it.

    TAG: @Lady_Belligerent; @Sinrebirth
     
    Lady_Belligerent likes this.
  21. HanSolo29

    HanSolo29 RPF/SWC/Fan Art Manager & Bill Pullman Connoisseur star 7 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Apr 13, 2001
    OOC: And jumping back to Sybelle and Aryan!

    This is a combo with Lady_B and Sinrebirth – it's been a pleasure! You guys are amazing! [:D]

    IC: Sybelle, Aryan Graul, Four-Dee (11-4D), and Dr. Sompa
    Sompa's Retreat, then Private Yacht, Nouane

    And, if you ever did
    Come back
    To me
    What, would I tell
    Of the times you had missed
    Or, the times I had missed you

    -A. Thompson

    ~Ten hours later~

    Sybelle hadn’t slept since she had been laying with Aryan on the ship, she’d been holding him to offer comfort and she’d given in to her own exhaustion. Her only excuse now was that she didn’t feel safe.

    To be honest, she had not felt safe since arriving on Nouane. At first, she’d thought it was Aryan’s uneasiness, but it was her too. Sybelle didn’t feel safe there.

    After giving up on rest, she tidied the room and spent some time in the privacy of the refresher. She relaxed a little under the stream of hot water washing over her weary body, and the fresh scent of soap helped to lighten her mood.

    There had been plenty of time to think during the long night, but she couldn’t stop thinking of how Aryan had blamed her for their separation. Sybelle’s heart ached that he had so easily believed those who had always thought her inferior. They would have to talk things over soon, and Sybelle needed to prepare herself because she would have to leave again. He had a wife and family which didn’t leave room for her.

    After her shower, she came back out into the main area of the room. They had not spoken since last night, and when the doctor tapped on the door and requested to enter, her reaction was to look over at him with a questioning expression. Aryan was the patient, and she preferred that he speak for himself.

    Aryan’s natural inclination was to ignore the request; to ignore Sybelle…

    … to ignore everything.

    That’s how he had survived the night. If he acted like they weren’t there, like nothing was wrong, perhaps he could find solace. However, he knew that his logic was flawed. His condition made it nearly impossible to relax—particularly when the voices returned with a relentless fury. They would not allow his mind to rest; it was a constant barrage of thoughts, images, and emotions. It drove him to close his eyes a little tighter and to pull his knees closer to his chest…

    But to his surprise, one distinct voice managed to break through the deafening cacophony. It was a voice from his past… someone who had helped him through adversity and hardship after he had lost his leg in a catastrophic accident. Someone who had allowed him to live a life with Sybelle.

    "Four-Dee?" Aryan murmured hoarsely, finally opening his eyes and lifting his head to search the area. His gaze rested briefly on Sybelle, pursing his lips in anticipation of her disapproval. He expected her to chide him for his behavior the night before; for demanding answers when he had no right to pry. If she wanted to distance herself from him, that was her priority. Who was he to pressure her into a relationship she clearly had no intentions of reciprocating? The best he could do was brace himself for the inevitable rebuke.

    Instead, she merely stared back with a curious expression, as if offering him encouragement.

    "Four-Dee c–can help us," he said tentatively, nodding his head to affirm his words. "J–Just like… he did back when we were kids. I–I trust him." His demeanor suddenly shifted, becoming more awkward as he unleashed a short laugh. "He’s the only droid I ever trusted."

    Nodding again to assure himself of his decision, Aryan sat up and glanced toward the door.

    "Come in."

    The door slowly opened.

    Dr. Sompa was there, but he stepped back to let 11-4D through first, the elderly droid - if such a thing could be said to apply to a robot - paddling through. His photoreceptors seemed to emit genuine warmth, though, and the droid clattered forward with an approximation of speed. "Oh, it is so very good to see you, Master Graul, and Mistress Sybelle, too! My you have grown."

    The two of them hadn't seen him since Nubia, which was considerably longer ago for Sybelle than Aryan.

    Their fates were very similar until the Clone Wars ended, after all, when the Change occurred for Sybelle.

    "Four-Dee?" Sybelle said in disbelief.

    "Oh, Aryan," she gasped and hurried to his side. "I can’t believe it’s really you, Four-Dee."

    Sybelle laughed at his comment regarding their growth and said, "You haven’t changed a bit, Four-Dee." It was so good to see the old droid who had been a friend to them both, she felt oddly comforted to see someone from the past.

    "You got your wish!" Sybelle said, taking his arm affectionately, she was genuinely surprised and happy. "Isn’t this wonderful?"

    This was some sort of miracle that the one being Aryan wanted, a droid no less, was there.

    Dwelling on the fact that he no longer trusted her wouldn’t help either of them right now, this was about getting Aryan well.

    In his excitement, Aryan did not protest and allowed Sybelle to take his arm. It might have been a show of admission or perhaps a request for forgiveness—but more than likely, he was merely too immersed in the moment to fully comprehend the gesture. Either way, it was a positive sign that could lead them toward reconciliation.

    For now, Aryan shifted his weight and turned to regard the antiquated droid. He admitted that he had lost track of Four-Dee over the years. Between his role as the chief operating officer of the family business and the onset of the war, including the chaos that followed in the wake of Arek’s disappearance, there hadn’t been an opportunity to seek him out. It was almost surreal to have him here, in this moment, when everything else was so muddled.

    Was he merely another hallucination?

    Aryan reached out a trembling hand and tentatively touched Four-Dee’s chest plate, running his fingers along the metallic surface, exploring every nook and cranny as if to confirm his physical presence.

    "You’re… r–real," he said in a low murmur, a faint smile touching his lips. He proceeded to inch closer on his knees, bringing his other hand around to join the first in examining the droid’s frame. "I… I wasn’t sure at first—I mean, I didn’t—"

    He trailed off, closing his eyes briefly to regain his composure.

    "You… can help us," he pleaded as he lifted his chin and gazed into Four-Dee’s photoreceptors. "You c–can take us away from here… away from the Darkness."

    The droid tilted his head. "Dr. Sompa, might I have some privacy."

    The nonhuman hesitated. "Yes, of course."

    The moment the door shut, 4-D turned back. "I just emitted a sound frequency that will prevent their listening devices from following what we’re saying." He reached over to them, grasped their hands with his appendages softly. "We need to go. Get you to safety, away from the doctors that the Dark Lady of the Sith has paid off to keep you here."

    It was worse than she could’ve imagined. This place was not a safe haven for them, and likely never was. Plus, Cuf had not returned and his time was practically up.

    "Aryan," Sybelle said softly, "before we go any farther from here, I need to know something." She swallowed and took a second to compose herself because she didn’t want Aryan to see how hurt she was.

    "Do you want me to come with you?" she asked. "You were angry with me over something that is not true, but this isn’t the time or place to discuss it. I know you have a… wife somewhere, and I’m not sure—um." She had to stop again.

    Sybelle had not wanted to spill her guts, but damn it. Damn Lyz, and Norin… they had taken everything from her. Was it worth it? She wondered if they were happy with the results of what they did.

    "I’m sorry," she backtracked what she was saying a little, "I’m willing to follow you, but only if that’s what you want."

    She looked to 4-D and then to the floor, "I trust 4-D’s opinion and believe you need to be away from here, you aren’t safe if it’s the same Dark Lady that I broke her rock over her head. She’s going to be ticked."

    Her teeth tugged at her lower lip as she thought her words carefully. "It’s your call."

    It was too much; far too much.

    Four-Dee’s revelation about the doctor’s allegiance to the Sith was enough to weaken his resolve. He could feel it eroding away at his defenses, allowing his insecurities to rise back to the surface. It didn’t help his ailing state of mind when Sybelle used that opportunity to interrogate him about his intentions, their relationship, and the future. He simply didn’t know; he couldn’t concentrate.

    In response, Aryan disengaged from Four-Dee and rocked back onto his haunches, entangling his fingers in his hair. He squeezed tightly and winced as if the gesture would help alleviate some of the stress.

    "I…I do—don’t want to be… alone," he finally uttered after a prolonged silence, his eyes staring straight ahead but unfocused… distant. "Not… again… not—" His words dissolved into a dismal groan as he clenched a fist full of hair. "I—I want you… here… with me."

    With a sharp gasp, Aryan suddenly reached out and grasped Sybelle’s arm in a vice-like grip.

    "We need… to get away from here," he growled through clenched teeth, his eyes pleading as he finally angled his chin to seek her face. "F–Find… Arek—escape the Darkness… evade the Sith. Now."

    His grip was painful, causing her to lean in close so that he wouldn’t fracture her arm, she knelt on the floor beside him.

    "Aryan," she placed her free hand on his face, cradling his cheek. "You aren’t going to be alone, I will be with you for as long as you want. There is nowhere else in the galaxy that I would rather be." Sybelle gently pressed his chin up so that she could look into his eyes, "remember that we were always meant to be together, my love." She pulled him to her so she could lay his head against her chest, much like one would hold a child… like she had held their child.

    Her heart ached for how things would’ve been without others controlling them. Aryan wouldn’t be suffering like this, and they would’ve raised their daughter together.

    Those thoughts had to be quickly pushed away, keeping that information from Aryan was for the best, he was already fragile enough without adding to it.

    For now, her focus had to be getting Aryan to safety, but to where? They also needed to find Arek and get a ship.

    "Four-Dee," Sybelle looked up to their droid friend and asked, "Can you help us escape and find Arek?"

    She continued to hold Aryan while using the Force to soothe his anxiety.

    "Escape, yes, but Arek, I suspect he has already been taken off-world by Dr. Sompa's accomplices. Lumiya is here, in the City, I am sure of it." Four-Dee sounded despondent. "We should get you to Nubia, or another world, not one so tied to the Darknesses and Epitaph."

    His eyes took in Sybelle and Aryan. "Step aside."

    The droid headed to the rear of the room and produced one of its innumerable surgery implements. "I had this upgraded for this breakout." The droid held up the emitter and pointed it at the metal wall. It cut into and through. "This wall backs onto the street. We can escape through it."

    His photoreceptors reoriented towards them. "We must save ourselves, then we can save Arek."

    Still cradled in Sybelle’s arms, Aryan craned his neck to watch Four-Dee’s progress, his eyes focused on the brilliant flare of the cutting tool as it traced a path around the exterior wall’s perimeter. A soft ‘thump’ resounded before the candescent outline fell away to reveal the twilit thoroughfare beyond.

    His intuition told him this was the way forward; they needed to escape this dark world. In that sense, Four-Dee was correct in his assessment. Retreating to Nubia or some other neutral planet was their best option. It would provide a reprieve until they could regroup and determine where Arek had gone. He did not want to believe that Lumiya had returned and abducted his son for a second time. He refused to accept that outcome.

    No, it’s not true.

    Closing his eyes briefly, Aryan pressed closer to Sybelle, enveloping himself in her warmth. Despite their harrowing situation, he felt surprisingly calm in her presence. Rather than being superficial, it was visceral and profound; he could feel it in his bones, reaching down into his very soul. It provided him with confidence, strength… and love.

    Thank you, he conveyed silently through their bond, a weak smile evident on his lips.

    With renewed resolve, bolstered by Sybelle’s efforts, Aryan rose shakily to his feet. "L–Let’s get out of here," he urged his ex-lover, pulling on her forearm with the hand that continued to cling to her for support.

    Sybelle would have to bury her own fears deeply.

    She was aware this would probably destroy her in the end, but she would remain at Aryan’s side and support him until the last breath left her body… which could be soon if Lyz found out Sybelle was with Aryan. Sybelle thought she was getting too old to run from assassins.

    Besides, her heart had never healed from the past. Some wounds cannot be healed.

    "Lean on me, my love," Sybelle said as she used the Force to comfort and embrace the man she would always love. She would carry him if necessary, which made her smile since it was absurd to imagine her literally carrying Aryan.

    She quickly checked that she had the lightsaber the dark stranger Cuf had given her, other than that the duo really had nothing to take with them.

    "You’re doing so well," Sybelle whispered to Aryan, "we can do this." Her confidence was so strong that it oddly boosted her own morale. There was no room for doubt, they simply had to escape.

    The wall gave way with a shove from the droid, and indeed it fell into the street. "Come, come. I have a ship parked here."

    Indeed there was, but barely visible to them; as if it was covered in a mirror of some kind. "I took the initiative and used some of your father's funds to purchase this. My apologies, Aryan, if I overreached."

    The ramp dropped, showing the typical Sienar design on the inside.

    It was remarkable how much influence Sybelle’s presence had on Aryan’s psyche. He felt reinvigorated and more confident than he had at any point since escaping from Lumiya’s asteroid habitat. He leaned hard into her body to show his affection, squeezing her arm as if to thank her for helping him regain some of his autonomy.

    The change was evident as they approached the camouflaged ship and Four-Dee quickly tried to make restitution for his actions. Aryan merely staggered forward to study the alterations, shaking his head slightly at the droid’s apprehension. There was no shame in what he had done; he admired his ingenuity, especially under such tense circumstances. They could use all the help they could get.

    "Y–You did good, Four-Dee," Aryan replied softly, angling his chin to regard the droid. "As far as I’m concerned… my—my father won’t be needing those funds anymore. N–Not where he is. It… all belongs to me now."

    The implication was clear, though he cared not to elaborate on the specifics. The less he said of Norin Graul, the better.

    Instead, he tightened his hold on Sybelle’s arm for support and began to shuffle up the landing ramp beside her. Before they disappeared over the threshold, he glanced briefly over his shoulder. "Uh, I–I trust you to get us out of here," he nodded solemnly at Four-Dee. "Take us to, uh… a s–safe port."

    Sybelle was encouraged by Aryan’s determination. It gave her renewed faith that he was going to accept help and get better. For once thoughts of who might be at their destination didn’t hover in the back of her mind to spoil the happiness.

    She smiled and nodded her thanks to Four-Dee, "I will make Aryan comfortable while you handle the piloting stuff. Perhaps you would examine him after we are enroute?" She asked their mechanical friend.

    "That is, if it’s okay with you, my dear?" Sybelle added, she wanted Aryan to be in control of his care.

    The ship had a small room with a bunk, and that was where Sybelle led Aryan. She hoped that he would be able to relax and sleep once they were away from Nouane.

    She patted the bunk and said, "Can I get you anything? I don’t remember the last time you had food."

    Their old medical droid bobbed his head. "I'll take the helm."

    He went off to do so and left Sybelle and Aryan to their moment.

    In response to Sybelle’s question, Aryan’s stomach emitted a loud rumble. He quickly recoiled, hoping to tame his unruly gut by shifting position, but it was a fruitless gesture. As his body was so intent on reminding him, he could not recall the last time he had eaten a proper meal. However, that didn’t make it any less embarrassing.

    With a sheepish glance, Aryan hoisted himself onto the bunk and tried to settle down. Fortunately, it didn’t require much effort. A wave of exhaustion consumed his body as soon as he sat down. The harrowing events of the past twelve hours had clearly affected him in both the mental and physical sense. He needed rest; perhaps he would even be able to sleep.

    As he slowly leaned back and allowed his head to ease into the pillow, he offered Sybelle a weak smile. "I–I don’t know if you’ll find anything to–to eat on this bucket," he said with a hint of levity. "Four-Dee doesn’t always account for–for biological lifeforms. H–He tends to forget."

    He reached up and squeezed her hand reassuringly. "But I–I trust him. He took care of me after my–my accident. Once we’re in hyperspace, you can send him back for an–an exam."

    Sybelle smiled softly and replied, "I trust him too, he has always been very good to us. Surely you remember the times he covered for us when we snuck out?" She laughed over how they had navigated a budding romance without his father knowing.

    "Scoot over and I’ll stay with you until you’re sleeping, then I’ll inform Four-Dee and figure out something for you to eat," she said laying down on her side at the edge of the bunk. Sybelle made sure Aryan was comfortable, and she pulled the lightweight blanket over him.

    She repositioned herself so that she was almost cradling his head so that she could massage his forehead and temples. Her touch was feather-light, the sort of action that would be soothing, and it selfishly allowed her to touch him.

    The earlier events still had her very shaken. Aryan was so angry and accusatory, she wondered if he would ever forgive her… only, it seemed strange that she would be to blame. The only thing she could accept blame for was that she’d been a coward and had stayed away.

    Her fingers slid down his jawline and slid down to his upper neck. She heard his soft sigh, and he visibly relaxed.

    Sybelle watched his respiration for a moment. Aryan looked so peaceful for once, he was clearly exhausted and needed the rest.

    She gently stroked his tousled hair back from his forehead thinking of his habit of pushing it back. Emotions began to overwhelm her, it had to be a result of her holding them back for hours… the pain had never dulled, nothing had gotten easier. Now she had to wonder if Lyz would be waiting for them, what was Sybelle supposed to do about that? It was all too much.

    Then there was the guilt. She couldn’t tell Aryan about Arabella.

    Sybelle swallowed a sob, she didn’t want to wake Aryan, he couldn’t see her like this. He would know. In their younger years, he had always been able to know her thoughts, they had truly been inseparable.

    She stroked his hair and spoke in the softest whisper, "I never willingly left you, and I tried to tell you multiple times. Then Lyz saw I was pregnant, and she lost her mind. She was clear that you no longer wanted to see me, she said I disgusted you, and I was to never return."

    Telling her story was easing the pain in her chest. She paused for a moment and watched Aryan breathing to be sure he was still sound asleep.

    He hadn’t moved a muscle while she had been speaking so far.

    "I left, but I was having trouble finding anyone to deliver the baby for me. You know the mindset of people then, it was difficult to find anyone who wouldn’t immediately tell me to leave once they saw I was of Chiss descent.”

    She told anecdotes of being pregnant and the first time she felt their daughter move, all of the wonders that Aryan should’ve experienced with her. All of the details she had been holding on to for years so that she could tell him one day poured out while she gently stroked his hair.

    No longer crying, she had a cathartic release from simply baring her soul to her slumbering former lover. Sybelle pushed on to finish, "I ran through a large portion of my savings to pay for the only midwife I was able to secure, she kept insisting that she be allowed to dispose of my shame. I wish I hadn’t called her when I went into labor, because I spent the entire time afraid that she would harm our daughter." Sybelle scowled at the memory, "but my labor wasn’t long and Arabella was very small, so she was delivered safely, without any complications. Well, except for the midwife, when she saw our daughter she quickly had a notion that I would sell her. It was completely disgusting."

    She dared to caress his beard, but he didn’t move. "I had to move away so that wretched woman would stop. I just couldn’t trust her, because she was adamant that I must give up the baby.

    "I believe it was because she was so perfect. Arabella had big blue eyes and she looked like a combination of you and Ashaiya. Her skin was ivory porcelain, without a hint of her Chiss heritage."

    The next part was the hardest, she hesitated thinking perhaps she would stop. Sybelle did feel much better, but guilt lingered.

    "I had been told to never return to your home, or I’d be very sorry. But I was a fool and went back once more with our daughter. Lyz opened the door, and she was far worse than the last time. It was made clear that harm would come to the baby if I ever showed my face there again."

    That had been enough for Sybelle. Knowing that they would hurt their daughter was terrifying, Norin clearly had his hand in this and she knew what he was capable of.

    It was impossible to tell everything during Aryan’s nap, so she skipped forward to viewing their daughter’s body at the morgue. "I spent months piecing together what happened by tracking her movements through comm pings and holo security cams. She insisted on knowing her father’s identity, Bella had all of your stubbornness combined with mine. It was impossible to deny her the information. She promised me that she wouldn’t make contact with you unless she spoke to me, but she broke that promise.

    "It was my fault, I had told her not to do it, and to drop the subject. Arabella went to your house and encountered Lyz and several large men. The men followed Bella after she was turned away. It was clear she was crying, and she didn’t seek help so I guess she was too distracted to notice the goons following her."

    Closing her eyes, Sybelle finished her story, "They brutally beat her before they snapped her neck. I identified her and saw the horrible injuries, I wanted to kill those responsible, but what would that serve?" she asked. "They would do the same thing to me, and no one would be left to tell you about our Arabella."

    Sybelle sat quietly for several minutes, breathing in the peacefulness of the room. Quietly, she slid off the bunk and leaned down to touch her lips to Aryan’s forehead.

    The message was delivered to Four-Dee, and she went about trying to see what sort of food was in the ship's galley.

    Aryan waited for Sybelle to leave, allowing the silence to permeate the room until the only sound came from the soft droning of the air recyclers. Only then did he open his eyes and stare at the low ceiling.

    He had been awake the whole time, feigning sleep while she divulged her secrets. It began as an act of respect; it would’ve been improper for him to interrupt when she needed a release. But as she carried on, he found himself enthralled by her tale. That soon devolved into guilt, anguish, and grief. It was too much for him to comprehend. How could it be possible for him to lose so much and never know? He swallowed the lump in his throat and watched as the individual ceiling panels blurred together with the onset of tears. Everything soon became a white perpetual haze, indistinct from the physical world around him.

    It was hard to discern how long he remained this way, unblinking and unmoving. It might have been minutes, hours… days…

    Did it matter?

    He merely existed in a fugue state.

    His mind's eye danced heedlessly with thoughts and images, converging with the voices that suddenly became relentless.

    A tempest ensued.

    Sybelle had been pregnant.

    He had a daughter, Arabella.

    But she had died… murdered.

    Lyz had betrayed him…

    … had kept the truth hidden from him.

    His father had perpetrated the plan and aimed to destroy his life.

    He had succeeded.

    That revelation snapped Aryan out of his narcosis with a sharp gasp. He rolled over, curling up into a fetal position… and wept.

    [​IMG]

    TAG: @Lady_Belligerent; @Sinrebirth
     
  22. Sinrebirth

    Sinrebirth Mod-Emperor of the EUC, Lit, RPF and SWC star 10 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Nov 15, 2004
    IC: Ike

    Hunting down Nom Anor was annoyingly difficult.

    Mainly because he didn’t have the Force, and so locating him using that method meant finding a hole in it. Ike couldn’t even think of an equivalent metaphor, and just, well, gave up.

    Fishing his comlink out of his pocket, he keyed it to Bellorum - Braata - and wondered if it even worked.

    Suddenly a blade exploded from his gut, and Ike looked down, gasping.

    An amphistaff; no wonder he hadn’t sensed it -


    Alleyway

    Lumiya’s unconscious form lay there.

    They were outside of it again, Sistros and Braata. They noticed a handful of things when they arrived.

    Braata’s comlink was going, yes. Ike’s pain echoed into the Force.

    Aryan and Sybelle - the wrong Sybelle, nonetheless - had boarded a yacht and were on their way off-world, a long and unpleasant miasma trailing behind them -

    The Master of Masters presence, a shadow upon the Force, in its own way, was missing suddenly -

    Yanjon - Aden - his presence was also missing. Somehow -

    Faya was reappearing suddenly, after an extensive absence, as long as their time in the mind of Lumiya -

    But more prominently, there was a Darkness before them. Amorphous. A shadow. No, they recognised now, with their greater senses, that it was a tear in the Force. An embodiment of a Change. It was tethered to Lumiya and -

    Look what you have wrought.

    A twist of its visage, and it looked into orbit.

    Two ships.

    Yes, the yacht belonging to Aryan and Sybelle and a droid intellect that had clearly developed its own sentience; it had intention, and guilt, a rare development in a droid. The yacht vanished into hyperspace -

    -but also a second, a broken down tramp freighter. There was a ripple there; Arek Graul, unconscious, and a cloaked presence evident. Faintly… Chagrian shaped. It was higher in orbit, and poised to leap to light speed. In a mere fraction of a moment it would be gone. They could spend power stopping it; or less tracking it.

    A division of their attention could also track where the yacht was going…

    The Darkness was tethered to another body laying on the floor, which had red hair, yes, and a Black Coat, yes. It was the unconscious form of Ben Skywalker, from the same timeline as Sybelle. Which one will you intervene to take, to save, to seize.

    Lumiya began to stir beneath.

    To protect?

    The Force spoke of a tear, encapsulated in the woman. They’d intervened in memory, and changed the memories of those present. But all of those at that Gala on Coruscant, long in the past, were dead, or had fixed points where they died. Those such as Palpatine, Vader and Lumiya - their fates were written.

    Weren’t they?

    If only memory was impacted… how was damage being done to the Force? Whose memory had they revealed themselves to?

    That little Change would take their attention to seal. To shut. Which would it be?

    Th Change? The yacht? The kidnapped Arek? Ike? The Darkness and his unconscious tether? Whatever had happened to Aden? Or the Master of Masters?

    TAG: @Lady_Belligerent, @HanSolo29 (combo), mention for @Mitth_Fisto
    —-
    IC: 11-4D

    Heading into orbit

    The little droid had been a long servant of the Graul family. He had been introduced to manage Aryan’s recovery after the Battle of Merson; there to deliver Sybelle’s baby; necessary to manage various treatments and ailments of the wider Graul family tree. New members had been his province, 11-4D did not expect to be midwife so often, but there had been no harm to it.

    The little droid hadn’t been wiped by the Graul Family in his nearly four decades of service. Ashaiya had forbidden it, a rare instance of refusing Norin Graul which the droid had been deeply appreciative for.

    11-4D was touched, and that time had allowed him to develop into a full consciousness. Much like other famous droids who had avoided memory wipes - See-Threepio and Artoo-Detoo came to mind - the medical droid had much fondness for the family. He was only too happy to save them from the clutches of Nouanese Science.

    He was very loyal.

    These were not his first masters, but he had a soft spot for them. He would nonetheless do what he had to do.

    A few taps to the cockpit controls, he hummed to himself as the system piped up that the route was unknown to its starcharts. But most safe havens would be, he absently reflected. “Override Cartographic Safeties,” he said, as Sybelle entered the cockpit looking for the galley.

    “Mistress Sybelle, how is Master Graul?”

    TAG: @Lady_Belligerent (combo)
    —-
    Dreams


    The penumbra between life and death, it was said, thinned in the realm of sleep. So too did memory intermingle with reality, and birth potential futures.

    It also coloured the past.

    Aryan was remembering a lucid moment on Nubia.

    Years before.

    Lyz was crouching before him, holding his hand close. Jalynn was there too, looking distraught. “Aryan, can you hear me? We need to talk about a decision we need to make.” Lyz had tears in her eyes. “About your care.”

    TAG: @HanSolo29 (combo)
     
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2024
  23. Lady_Belligerent

    Lady_Belligerent Queen of the RPF, SWC, C&P, and Pancakes & Waffles star 10 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jan 29, 2008
    This is a combo post with @Sinrebirth as 11-4D, thank you!

    IC: Sybelle and 11-4D
    somewhere in the galaxy

    “Mistress Sybelle, how is Master Graul?”

    Sybelle signed heavily and leaned against a bulkhead.

    ”He’s resting,” she answered, “but he’s very fragile. I’m not sure what was done to him… I found him filthy and broken.” Her eyes welled with tears, but she wiped them away.

    “I just want to help him. To fix everything, but I know that his wife will take over. I can’t stay if she’s there.”

    "Mistress Graul is the one who contacted me about her missing husband," the droid did say, absently adjusting the cockpit controls. "It was quite a circuitous manner in which she reached me. After all, I had left the family employ shortly after Master Graul was arrested."

    "However, I do believe most of Master Graul's damage is to his psyche, and once his physical ailments are fully attended to, he will make a full recovery." A twist of a dial. "I of course won't be delivering Master Graul to Mistress Graul while you remain, Mistress Sybelle." He turned his head and tilted his optics slightly as if peering over glasses at her. "Are you intending to stay now?"

    Sybelle was startled by the droid’s candor.

    Suddenly she felt even more weary and slid into a seat.

    “I don’t know what to do, 4D,” she said quietly. “I want to believe he needs me, but maybe that’s just me wishing for what I cannot have.”

    She couldn’t tell him why she didn’t want to face Lyz Graul. Few people would believe that the upstanding wife of Aryan Graul had threatened her life more than once… or that Lyz had been responsible for the death of her daughter.

    The woman had insisted that Aryan didn’t want her. Those words echoed through Sybelle’s mind now, making guilt crash down heavily on her. She had taken advantage of him when he was vulnerable.

    It hit her hard that she had knowingly made love to Aryan, when he was very clearly going to be returning to his wife.

    Tears now streamed down her face when she looked back to the droid and said, “I’m as lost now as I ever was, so I have no clue what I’m doing.”

    The droid activated its empathy module and reached over to place a hand atop hers. "Mistress Sybelle. Once we reach our location, it will all be much simpler." He would have drawn her into a hug if his free hand wasn't tapping away, making continual adjustments.

    ”If you say so, 4D,” she replied, not sounding convinced.

    “Do we have what is necessary to heal Aryan’s physical ailments?” She asked. “Because I believe it will be up to him if I stay or not, but I would rather not leave him injured with that hag. She would send him away to a clinic rather than be bothered to nurse him back to full health.”

    "We will have better facilities when we arrive," the droid said, softly, a doctors voice. "But I will attend him in the meantime." A slight hesitation. "Did you need anything else from me?"

    “Thank you, 4D,” Sybelle answered, “I don’t need anything.” She felt it was more important that Aryan’s medical needs be accessed.

    She hesitated and spoke up again, “wait, I do have a question. You mentioned a ‘location’, where is it exactly that we are going?”

    The droid turned. "Excuse me?"

    Sybelle blinked. She was about to repeat her question, but she changed her mind. “Oh, nevermind… I’m so tired that I’m not making sense,” she said slowly. “Why don’t you examine Aryan? I’m going to shut my eyes for a few minutes,” she said smiling.

    Yet again things were too good to be true.

    Four-D’s response to her question was strange, and she knew he heard her.

    11-4D nodded, tapping a key absently as he turned to leave the cockpit. “I will attend Master Graul, and update him as to our approach to his location of choice.” But the droids tone was… off. Pitched, even.

    She waited until he’d moved away before she opened her eyes.

    There was a moment when Sybelle wanted to go supervise the droid examining Aryan, but this could be her only opportunity to search for clues. Standing up to get a look at the controls, she kept checking to be sure 4D wasn’t coming back yet.

    They were locked. He’d passworded them; palm locked to Aryan Graul. What was the droid up to?

    “Damn it,” Sybelle whispered. She checked the entire cockpit for a datapad.

    There was one, and it was unlocked. There was a message at the top, marked as read.

    11-4D, should you track down my husband, somehow, I cannot express my thanks. When you do, the Stardust should be immediately keyed to him and only him. It is essential he gets back home. Nobody is to be trusted.

    It was Lyz.

    Sybelle gasped when she saw that Lyz was calling the shots. 4D had lied to her…

    The droid had deceived both Sybelle and Aryan.

    4D had been a trusted friend to them, many years ago. He had cared for Aryan when he was gravely injured, and then had stayed with the family. Only it never occurred to Sybelle that Lyz Graul could’ve reprogrammed the loyal droid. She staggered back a step and steadied herself by leaning against the wall.

    This was gutting. They had trusted him!

    She remembered that 4D was alone with Aryan and she couldn’t trust him not to do harm to Aryan. Sybelle knew how brutal Lyz could be, that woman wouldn’t hesitate killing anyone that got in her way.

    Allowing the droid alone with Aryan was dangerous, so Sybelle rushed back to the cabin where Aryan had been resting.

    4D was sitting, reading the data from Aryan Graul’s information. Just sitting. “Mistress Sybelle, I predict you have seen the datapad. I also predict you are concerned, feeling betrayed.” It looked up, sadness in its voice. “Suffice to say I am bound by my Master, but doing all I can to serve you best. I cannot go against my primary programming, and he will not allow a modification of the same.”

    Sybelle shuddered, she dismissed it as being cold, but in truth she was upset with herself. This was something that she should’ve considered before getting into the ship… there was literally no one they could trust.

    This wasn’t about her own safety, but Aryan’s. She didn’t believe he was safe around Lyz.

    ”4D, you mentioned being bound to your Master. Who is this Master?” She asked as she sat down next to the sleeping Aryan, then by reflex she gently stroked his tousled hair.

    Tag: @HanSolo29 @Sinrebirth
     
    HanSolo29 likes this.
  24. HanSolo29

    HanSolo29 RPF/SWC/Fan Art Manager & Bill Pullman Connoisseur star 7 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Apr 13, 2001
    OOC: The following is a combo with Sinre – thank you so much!! ^:)^

    IC: Aryan, Lyz, and Jalynn Graul
    Dreamscape of the future…

    "Aryan, can you hear me?"

    The voice sounded distant and muffled, almost as if he had his head submerged in water. It was hard to determine if he had been sleeping, or whether it was another unfortunate consequence of his mental haze. Nevertheless, he recognized the voice’s familiar intonations and identified the speaker as his wife. By anchoring himself to that connection, he was able to pull himself back from the precipice.

    Inhaling sharply, Aryan opened his eyes and swiftly pushed himself into a sitting position, his gaze wildly searching the scene before him. It appeared as if he was at home on Nubia. He recognized the rustic simplicity of the kitchen and the wide expanse of the natural landscape looming beyond the curtained window. But more importantly, he noted Lyz, who held his hand in a firm grip, hoping to reassure him—of what, he couldn’t be certain. Either way, he didn’t find her attempts overly convincing, particularly with the tears sparkling in her eyes. The concern was evident in her features.

    "We need to talk about a decision we need to make," she continued tentatively, the effort seeming to drain her mentally. "About your care."

    Aryan worked his jaw, staring at Lyz for a long moment. It was an odd way to preface their conversation; he couldn’t pinpoint what she was referring to—at least, not entirely. He thought he had been making positive strides toward recovery. Or was it all a lie to convince himself that he wasn’t crazy? That he wasn’t hearing voices? That he wasn’t blacking out several times a day with considerable gaps in his memory?

    Was it possible he simply didn’t want to confront the truth?

    His brow furrowed to reflect his inner struggle as he gently twisted his hand in her grasp. It was a clear sign of agitation. "I… I don’t know—" he stammered, searching for the right words to articulate his thoughts. "What… are you talking about? Y–You haven’t consulted the doctor. There’s… no decision to make. I’m… improving."

    It was a stubborn defense, one born out of pride, ego, and desperation. It also provoked his anger, which began to steadily increase. His temperament turned hostile as he suddenly wrenched his hand free and drew it back—

    However, before Aryan could berate Lyz for her actions, he noticed his daughter. Jalynn sat quietly at the kitchen table, hands tucked beneath her as she observed the exchange with wide eyes. She looked distraught… perhaps even withdrawn as she anticipated the worst. That realization sent a jolt of remorse through Aryan; it pained him to see how afraid she truly was. Whether it was of him or for him, he couldn’t say. Nevertheless, he didn’t want to cause her any further distress.

    Exhaling softly through his nose, he slumped back and rested his head against the wall, only realizing now that he had been sprawled on the floor the whole time.

    Had he fallen, or—?

    "I’m… sorry," he relented in a gravelly whisper. "I–I thought the plan was… to–to stick together." His eyes rested on Jalynn before shifting to Lyz. "As… as a f–family."

    Jalynn blanched, and Lyz looked at her sharply. "The family can't move forward and look after you, Aryan. You need more... specialised help, than I can give. I've tried to find your old medical droid, 11-4D, but I can't figure out where he ended up."

    "It was a war, mom, 4D could be gone."

    "I am sure he's just busy saving lives," Lyz said, testily.

    "You said he left shortly after you married Dad -"

    "Jalynn, this isn't important. What is important is getting your father help." She turned back to Aryan, looking at him appealingly. "You want Jalynn to go to university on Corellia, don't you, Aryan? She wants to go to one here, on Nubia, to be close to you, and I can't help her move into high society if I'm looking after you."

    A shadow seemed to pass over Aryan’s countenance as he stared at his wife, becoming suspicious of her intentions. Her voice had an airy quality that he recognized as pandering. She adopted it whenever she wanted to cajole him into a decision, primarily something that would benefit her own personal interests. In this case, he doubted she cared about Jalynn’s future well-being; she only wanted the social status her success would bring her. His mental capacities may be inhibited, but he still understood that much.

    "S–Shouldn’t it be her choice?" Aryan countered in a gruff voice, reaching for the closest chair for leverage to pull himself off the floor. "If… if she wants to attend university on Nubia, why—why stop her? Rordis has a pretty reputable school, especially w–with the grants I donated through the company over the years. They have top-of-line facilities and staff…"

    He stood to his full height, albeit on unsteady legs, and leveled his gaze to glare at her. "I–Is this really about getting me help… or something else?"

    Before Lyz could reply, he quickly pivoted on his heel to address Jalynn. "I–I saw Four-Dee," he announced with a fervor he had not displayed in a long time. "It… uh, it wasn’t recently, but—he’s not gone. I know that. H–He helped us… Sybelle and I… on Nouane."

    The mention of Sybelle caused her countenance to grow stony, but it was a mere flash. "We need to move forward. That means all of us. This house… this Estate… it’s too much." Her voice broke.

    She wasn’t wrong.

    There were a lot of bad memories here.

    Lyz shook her head. "You are misremembering, dear. You told me yesterday you were the Eternal Emperor… and the day before you were a Protector of the Force… and the day before that the Chancellor of the Empire."

    Jalynn audibly swallowed. "And you told me that you were Fulcrum, a Rebel agent… and that you were the original Sage of Dwartii named Sistros…"

    "And we both know that Sage died twenty-five thousand years ago, Aryan."

    His eyes narrowed as he glanced between Jalynn and Lyz, scrutinizing them silently before parting his lips to speak. "No, not dead," Aryan replied firmly, his demeanor shifting to adopt a more confident disposition. "It was a state of prolonged hibernation, induced by the Force to sustain life. There had been no other way. The End was imminent."

    He nodded toward them both as if his words had become common knowledge. Nevertheless, he would never grow weary of sharing his wisdom with others. His students would always bring him joy, no matter the circumstances.

    "Sistros lives," Aryan continued with a wistful smile. "Through all generations; in every timeline and alternate reality. He’s omnipotent. Even when the body withers and fades away, the soul carries on through the bloodline and becomes reborn." He stepped close to Jalynn, gently taking her hand and placing it over his heart. "Do you feel that? That same soul resides here. We are One… One of Ones."

    Lyz and Jalynn looked at each other. His daughter looked crestfallen.

    "I'm sorry, Dad." She nodded to Lyz, her eyes tearful.

    "11-4D?"

    And so the droid, behind Aryan, though he wouldn't've realised, reached around his neck.

    "I am so very sorry, Master Aryan."

    It pressed a medical stim to his throat, and sent him to sleep.

    TAG: @Sinrebirth; @Lady_Belligerent