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Star Wars CLOSED Interludes - The Clones' War

Discussion in 'Role Playing Forum' started by Sinrebirth , Jun 24, 2022.

  1. Sinrebirth

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

    Nov 15, 2004
    The Clone Wars kicked off an era of utter calamity and devastation.

    In hindsight, they were merely the pronouncement of what had already came to pass.

    The Sith ruled the galaxy.

    But let us rewind a tiny bit.

    Two years before...

    The then Chancellor Palpatine's term is about to end...

    Election season is upon us.
  2. Sinrebirth

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

    Nov 15, 2004

    IC: Darth Tyranus

    Hijacked HoloNet relay station

    Today he was the former Jedi Master and current Count of Serenno, Dooku. Renunciate; the final of the Lost Twenty.

    Yesterday, he had been in the shadows, Darth Tyranus, apprentice to the greatest Sith Lord in history; the most powerful, elusive, and masterful Darth Sidious.

    Tomorrow, he would be leader of the Confederacy of Independent Systems.

    He would conjure the independence movements of the past to the here and now.

    The Seventeen Alsakan Conflicts; the Rift Alliance; the independence of the Centrality, Hapes Consortium and Commonality; the eighteenth Corellian secession of five centuries ago...

    He would weave that legacy, some seventeen thousand years of seeking freedom.

    The Raxus Address, as it became known, saw Dooku use his most fiery rhetoric to condemn the Senate and Jedi for allowing the ideals and morals of the Galactic Republic to decline.

    It would, in the days to come, trigger a wave of separatism unseen for five centuries.

    The words would cross the length and breadth of the Galactic Republic, the so-called Ruusan Republic.

    It would touch those powers that had retained their borders, including the Senex-Juvex Sectors, the Hutt worlds, and crest upon the shores of the Unknown Regions...

    Where were you when you heard that the galaxy had just fell to chaos?


    TAG: @HanSolo29, @Lady Belligerent
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2023
  3. Lady_Belligerent

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

    Jan 29, 2008
    OOC: An amazing combo with @Sinrebirth - thank you!

    Raxus Prime

    Sev’rance Tann stood beside Vandalor as they listened to Count Dooku’s address. They were in a small transport assigned to accompany the Count’s fleet, and had brought their twelve year old daughter along because there wasn’t anyone to leave her with.

    Now they faced a whole new problem. “We brought her because of your vision,” Vandalor murmured, “you said she couldn’t stay behind, Sev’rance. She won’t be safe with us.”

    “I’m right here, you know?” Sybelle has indeed been sitting at the navigation station, crouched down in the seat. Her deep red eyes narrowed at her parents. “Why won’t I be safe?” She realized that might’ve crossed a line, but thankfully mom and dad were too wrapped up in the dramatics of the Count. Sybelle didn’t like him, but she had been told to keep her opinions to herself.

    “Go to the back and pack up your clothes,” her mother said quickly. “You didn’t answer me—,” Sybelle tried to ask but her mother interrupted with a stern, “NOW!”

    It wasn’t fair. She was old enough to be part of any discussion involving her safety. Sybelle reluctantly left, but she made sure they could hear her boots scraping the deck plates as she dragged her feet.

    Once their daughter wasn’t listening they started discussing options. “My aunt is on an archaeological dig, it shouldn’t be hard to find out where she is,” Sev’rance said while scrolling back through her messages.

    Vandalor wasn’t sure that would work, “she’s always in some remote location, how will we know Sybelle is safe? Also, what if she won’t take her for us?”

    Sybelle wasn’t known for her obedience, in fact she was stubborn and headstrong.

    “They won’t let us leave when hostilities break out,” Vandalor pointed to the console where they’d been monitoring the holonet feed. Reports were already coming in about chaos in many cities. “Dooku manipulated those listening, did you feel his use of the Force in his speech?”

    Sev’rance nodded, “I did, it took an effort not to be sucked into his oration. See if we can leave for 24 hours, I’ll go talk to Sybelle.”

    They both heard grumbling from the passage into the main cabin, “child, you’re testing my patience,” Vandalor shouted.

    “I should get to decide what I’m doing… or going, and I want to stay with you,” Sybelle raised her voice enough to be heard, “Mom, please.” She had to get them to listen to her, “I’ll never see you again if you leave me… you won’t come back.”

    She had told herself that she wouldn’t cry, but it was hopeless, and just maybe they could survive if she stayed with them. Staying with her parents could change her vision.

    Vandalor pressed his hand to his forehead. It wasn't easy having a Force sensitive child.

    It wasn't easy being a Force User, in Chiss Space. The Ruling Families scooped up them, wiped their memories, and put them in the Sky-Walkers, to be used as navigators, before their Force potential vanished, usually by the time they were teenagers. It was rare it went beyond that - thus Sev'rance being so important to the Sith, to the point Thrawn had helped them escape - and it was even rarer that the Force user was male.

    Nobody knew why.

    But he was determined to have his revenge on the Ruling Houses, and that meant working with the Sith.

    It didn't mean he would let their daughter be dragged into this.

    Dooku's flagship, a prototype Subjugator-class battle cruiser, it was crawling with those that would form the Dark Acolytes, the Separatist Council, and, potentially, with the Senator's present, the Confederacy Parliament.

    It definitely wasn't the place for a child.

    Sev’rance knew she should’ve punished Sybelle for not following instructions, but after that ominous speech, and war looming, she wasn’t sure she had the stomach to punish her only child.

    “You heard that speech,” Sev’rance wouldn’t speak down to her daughter, the girl was wise beyond her years and would be insulted if they weren’t honest with her. “There will be war, Sybelle.” She raised her hand to stop the child from interrupting her, “we will find someone for you to stay with, somewhere safe, I promise.”

    Sybelle shook her head rejecting her mothers statement. “You aren’t listening to me, you cannot go fight… you will die.”
    She couldn’t look at her mother, it hurt that they wouldn’t acknowledge what she had seen.

    If they had been on Csilla, Sybelle would have already been sent off to work, didn’t that make her mature enough to know what’s best for her?

    “I —,” a thought was forming, and Sybelle quickly dampened her internal monologue. Her parents were determined, they would not budge. She decided it was all okay, “I’ll go pack up now.” She managed a small smile and hurried off to her cabin.

    There was a rap at the door.

    Vandalor looked over, eyes narrowed.

    Who could it be?

    Sybelle didn’t hear the door. She was too busy grabbing her datapad, a change of clothes, and her life savings, which she quickly stuffed into a backpack.

    It was imperative that she clear her thoughts, ’act, don’t think,’ she told herself over and over. Out the back through a cargo hold, she dropped through a hatch and took off sprinting. Sybelle switched pedestrian paths randomly until she reached a large street market. Only then did she stop and raise the hood of her cloak to walk through the market, hoping she had blended in with other beings that browsed the merchandise.

    A couple of times she stopped to look closely at items displayed, it allowed her to check that she wasn’t being followed. The city had several levels, but she knew better than to go too far below. She’d heard her dad say the unsavory beings were down there.

    Vandalor and Sev'rance Tann were confronted by Count Dooku.

    He smiled genially, a grin that would send an arctic surge of fear down their spines.

    "My friends."

    "Master," Tann said, dropping to her knees.

    His eyes cut to her lover, who bowed. "My Lord."

    "Yes," Dooku said, with emphasis. "Lord Tyranus."

    He turned. "Come. We have much to do."

    As he went, he tapped a button upon his tunic.

    A comm signal was sent.

    A droid dispatched to tail the child.

    Cloaked, humanoid, she would sense it before long.

    Raxus was a hellhole, she’d heard her mom say it, and now she agreed.

    Sybelle’s plan was to keep them looking for her… but they didn’t seem to be looking yet.

    The market was small, and she wouldn’t find a place to hide there. Low a spindly tables wouldn’t conceal her if she crawled underneath, and the sellers had not been very friendly.

    She hovered around the last couple of tables, both were piled with what looked like rubbish to Sybelle. Her hands brushed over some broken ship components when she felt a strange creeping feeling. It was as if a squirmy multi-legged worm had crawled down her spine, she shivered and hissed.

    Her eyes darted around, but she didn’t see a threat, yet she felt like she was being stalked. Maybe this was a mistake, her parents weren’t coming, trouble was.

    A passenger transport was loading off to Sybelle’s left, and she came up with a new plan.

    Several groups of women and children were boarding, so Sybelle merged in with a gang of chattering kids and quickly found a seat.

    "Where do you think you are going."

    There was a guttural quality to the cloaked man's voice, and all of a sudden, four members of the queuing humanoids went flying - three Gotal and one Twi'lek - as if yanked and hurled into the air.

    The people cried out and began shoving, but the assailant wasn't apparent behind the bulk of people -

    The children began to cry out, but one, a Nautolan, looked grim. "You're not taking me back!"

    A blaster appeared out of his tunic, but another kid smacked into him and sent it flying.

    In the chaos Sybelle spotted the blaster and quickly relied on telekinesis to rip it out of midair and into her hands. Her lips formed a sly smile that felt really good. Mom had always praised her for learning that skill so easily.

    There wasn’t time to enjoy the moment, because she had to run again. It helped that she was small for her age, which made it easy to crawl under seats and around legs.

    She made it past the man abusing the children, but changed her mind and backed up. He was a bad man and those children were probably innocent.

    Sybelle didn’t want to risk using the blaster, instead she held out her hand and imagined she gripped the man’s leg, and pulled hand.
    She couldn’t wait to see what happened, this was yet another bad idea she’d had today.

    She muttered a curse word that would’ve made her mom livid, and she ran… as fast as her legs would go. Down the boarding ramp she fled and back along a pedestrian path.

    The one thing she would remember was how solid the man's leg was.

    It gave way though, and there was a loud noise, as if a great weight had tumbled.

    There were screams as Sybelle rushed off.

    A guttural, metallic exclamation. "Slime!"

    When the man stood back up, there was a collective gasp, and fear rushed into the Force, but the crowd blocked Sybelle's view of them.

    Snap-hiss -

    But she knew that sound -

    Sybelle dove under nearby seats and curled up tightly, she could hear her mother’s calm voice talking her through how to hide in the Force. She remembered that she had to make herself small.
    If it didn’t work she was toast.

    ’Do not cry!’ Sybelle ordered herself. She heard footsteps all around her, but she remained frozen under the seats, eyes squeezed shut.

    ’Who had a lightsaber?

    Another snap hiss.

    And another.

    And another.

    But by then, the ramp of the ship she was hiding upon was up, and it was launching.

    The snarl of frustration was cut off by the ramp sealing the passengers in, but the Force was full of what followed.


    Many, many deaths.

    ’Mama!’ Sybelle reached out in the Force for her mother, ’I’m so sorry, Mama.’

    She was still curled up hiding under the seats. Her hands were shaking as she pulled her hood over her head and cried in silence.

    Tag: @Sinrebirth @HanSolo29
  4. HanSolo29

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

    Apr 13, 2001
    OOC: The following is a combo with Sinrebirth – thank you so much!! [:D]

    IC: Aryan Graul and Norin Graul
    The Graul Estate, Nubia

    The boy knew something was amiss as soon as he descended the steps from the upstairs study. He had just finished his academic lessons for the day with his private tutor, and it was customary for him to spend the rest of the afternoon out in the fields tinkering with his swoop bike—but he knew he probably wouldn’t make it there today. He could practically feel the tension when he stepped off the landing and entered the parlor.

    Something bad had happened.

    Aryan Graul inhaled sharply as he hesitated on the threshold, noting his father’s briefcase first. It was on the floor, seemingly discarded there in a hurry. It was unusual for Dad to leave the office this early; he typically worked far into the evening during inventory. Whatever had occurred, his mother must have thought it urgent enough to call him home.

    But… why?

    Why was that necessary?

    That’s when he heard the distinct hum of the holovid from across the room, a firm voice droning through the speakers at a high volume. At first, Aryan thought that his parents had tuned into the latest address from Chancellor Palpatine—or perhaps their representative in the Senate, but it sounded… off. The voice was not one he recognized from any of the usual players in the Galactic Republic. It was colder, almost menacing as the man openly condemned the Senate and the Jedi for allowing their ideals to corrupt the government.

    That notion heightened his unease, causing a sinking feeling to form in the pit of his stomach. Nevertheless, Aryan willed himself to step forward and proceed into the main living space to join his parents. He was curious, and he wanted to know more.

    "Mom?" he called quietly, his eyes darting briefly across his father before he sought the woman perched on the edge of the couch, her steepled fingers resting against her chin in silent contemplation. "What’s going on?"

    Aryan watched her expectantly, desperate for an explanation. But he soon became distracted, his gaze slowly shifting toward the holovid to behold the speaker for the first time. The man had white hair slicked back from his forehead, a beard, and a breasted tunic, complete with a cape. Aryan didn’t recognize him, but he certainly commanded a strong, domineering presence. His lips parted, seemingly in awe.


    "Who is that?"

    Norin replied for his mother, as he was want to do. "Former Jedi Master Dooku," he confirmed. "A political firebrand that served on the Jedi Council before he left the Order some years ago." The Senator looked to his son. "He has just declared a Separatist Alliance, opposed to the Republic."

    He sounded thoughtful. "He is a very powerful man - a Count of Serenno, a particularly rich and affluent planet in the Outer Rim." Eyes refocusing, Norin grew harder in his expression. "Why, do you feel his words reaching you? Do you believe your daddy to be corrupt?" His tone was amused, playful, but his questions certainly not.

    The boy tensed, shifting his weight where he stood. He recognized what his father was trying to do; his explanation was more than a simple history lesson about Master Dooku and the events that had led to his eventual betrayal. It was a test… like all the others he had undergone before. The only exception was that if he failed, there would be terrible consequences…

    Swallowing the lump that had formed in his throat, Aryan dared to look at his mother, silently reaching out to her for help—but he knew it was a futile gesture. His father was too keen; too strict to allow anyone to assist him.

    He was on his own.

    "N—No, sir," he replied meekly, lowering his chin to stare at the floor. It was a lie; he truly did believe that his father was a conniving crook, but he would never admit that to his face. He had to remain calm and recite the words he wanted to hear.

    "It’s horrible that he would betray the very ideals that he swore to protect," he continued in a proficient tone, his words wise beyond his twelve years. "It reveals the weakness of the Jedi Order. They should’ve stopped the growing dissent before it reached a breaking point. He’s a renegade."

    Pursing his lips, Aryan slowly glanced up to meet his father’s gaze. "I worry that they won’t be able to protect you anymore… the Republic, it’s no longer safe. This is going to spark a war."

    Norin snorted at the over-sophisticated waif. "There hasn't been a war since the formation of the Republic. A thousand years of peace will not be so easily thrown away. The minor crises, and battles, even the civil strife of a few dozen worlds, they do not compare to a full war. Chancellor Palpatine will not allow a separatist cause to flourish."

    And then he hesitated.

    "But his term ends soon... election season, during a crisis like this?" Norin's eyes widened.

    It was easy to get drawn in by his father’s fiery rhetoric. He had a way of instilling confidence through his speech, which was probably why he excelled on the political stage. It was the perfect role for him; he had the influence and power to sway people to his will—and yet, Aryan failed to share in his convictions, particularly in this instance.

    Something still felt… off. The whole situation was different.

    His father's mention of the election only aggravated those sentiments. Aryan detected something in his tone… it caused the hair on the back of his neck to stand on end as an icy chill traveled down his spine.

    "It’s… what you want," he blurted suddenly, a hint of concern evident on his face. "I thought you always planned to run."

    Norin pursed his lips. "I intended to run, of course, the Core Faction has been preparing me for years..."

    "... but inheriting the Chancellorship, during a crisis?"

    His mother remained mute for the moment, shrewdly watching Aryan.

    There was a tumult in the air, as if the young man would be able to tell that it was going to get worse, before it got better. A war was coming, he was right, and perhaps, on some level, he could sense it.

    Those feelings, those… impressions caused Aryan to shudder, his face paling as he tried to get a handle on whatever it was that ailed him. He had experienced it before, and he could only describe it as the same kind of dread that lingers in one’s mind when waking from a bad dream. It was so vivid, so real. He was certain that something terrible was about to happen. The possibility of war triggered it, and his father’s statement about the election only caused it to escalate.

    "Chancellor Palpatine’s term expires at the end of this cycle," Aryan replied quietly, slowly connecting the dots from the information available to him. "Wouldn’t you need at least one candidate to accept the nomination—unless, wait…"

    The boy’s eyes grew wide, a mixture of awe and fear reflecting in their blue gaze. "The Core Faction doesn’t intend to carry through with the election… does it? You’re going to back Palpatine for another term." He exhaled sharply, seemingly in disbelief. "H—How?"

    "Not another term," Norin said, sharply. "An extended one." He growled. "We're in a crisis. Speculation that something like this was in the works has been rife for years... and with the corporations commanding thousands of worlds, and key parts of the Republic economy at that... Dooku can promise them whatever they want."

    "So yes, Aryan," he enunciated to the child. "I do intend to suggest the Chancellor is given an extension, so he can do what he has done for the last eight years, and press on with reforms of our Republic."

    Sarcasm dripped from his voice. "Is that agreeable? Or do you have a feeling about it that I should value more than my decades of experience?"

    He was right.

    He was always right.

    What was the point of even trying to hold a discussion with the man? No matter what Aryan said, it was never an acceptable response; it was either ill-advised or incompetent. There was no room for compromise. Despite his best efforts, he could never satisfy his father's high expectations.

    That realization clenched at his chest and caused a lump to rise in his throat. Tears threatened to spill from his eyes, but he inhaled deeply and willed himself to remain strong. Nevertheless, it was a useless gesture. The feeling his father had alluded to was still very present, needling at the back of his mind, and as an adolescent youth, he hadn’t quite achieved the maturity level to control his emotions fully.

    And so, he quickly succumbed to the petulant behavior of a young child as he began to plead with his father.

    "It’s… a bad feeling, Dad," Aryan persisted, stepping close to reach for the man’s arm. "I—it’s cold, very cold… like a wet blanket wrapping around my body to choke me. I also feel sick… my stomach hurts."

    He gasped and averted his eyes to seek out his mother, clearly distressed. But before she could react, he quickly shifted back to his father and clenched his sleeve tightly within his grasp. "I…I don’t want you to do this, please… something bad is gonna happen. Please listen to me for once. You have the power to sway them."

    Norin sniffed.

    Before Aryan would realise, his father had backhanded him and sent him tumbling into blackness.

    TAG: @Sinrebirth; @Lady Belligerent
  5. Sinrebirth

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

    Nov 15, 2004
    Two years later...
  6. Sinrebirth

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

    Nov 15, 2004
    The Galactic Senate voted to extend Chancellor Palpatine's term as the Separatist Crisis took root -

    First hundreds, and then thousands of worlds seceded and joined Dooku's nascent government -

    For some, the Confederacy of Independent Systems, for others, the Separatist Alliance, a Parliament -

    Aimed directly at the corrupt, bloated and uncaring Republic -

    Corporations like the Trade Federation, Commerce Guild, Techno Union, Corporate Alliance and Banking Clan opening powerful lines of communication and funding -

    Members to those selfsame corporations as key to the galactic economy as Fondor, Kuat, Neimodia, Scipio, Castell and Feorest being asked where their loyalties were -

    A drum-beat of secessions -

    Outer Rim worlds such as Ukio, Ando, Ord Cestus, Serenno and much of the Rimma Trade Route and Tion Cluster -

    Mid Rim worlds such as Metalorn, Saluecami, and Druckenwell -

    Inner Rim systems like Yag'Dhul and Antar 4 -

    Planets in the Colonies such as Balmorra -

    And then Corellia -

    The Corellian Sector was seceding, and there was a rush to join the Republic Judicial Forces.

    Not to the Separatists, no, but Senator Garm Bel Iblis had called an armed neutrality; independence.

    The nineteenth time that Corellia had gone into meditative seclusion in 17,000 years...

    All across the sector, be it Corellia itself, Jumus, Sacorria, Froz, and of course Nubia -

    Young men and women of age, especially humans, rushed to become part of the debate -

    Because the Senate was discussing whether, in this time of pending war...

    Whether to recreate the Grand Army of the Republic...

    Where were you when that happened?

    TAG: @Lady Belligerent, @HanSolo29 (combos)
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2022
  7. Lady_Belligerent

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

    Jan 29, 2008
    Combo with Sinrebirth. Thank you, Sir!

    Nubia - spaceport

    Sybelle ducked into a public refresher and took a moment to wash her face and hands. She’d spent the last year dressing as a boy to work on cargo ships, the most difficult part was keeping her mouth shut and head down. Her dad had once teased her about how she was always in trouble, and that hadn’t changed.

    She pulled her last set of clean clothing from her backpack and changed clothes, adding a long black scarf to conceal her braids. Truthfully she missed the nice clothing her parents used to get her, now she had to dig through cast off bins, or bought from resellers in street markets.

    Her current dream was to locate and sell magical artifacts to get rich. Somewhere she had an aunt that was going just that, but she couldn’t remember where she was… or where her baby sister ended up. If only she could earn enough credits, it would be possible to pay someone to find them for her.

    Checking a map in the wall at a spaceport on Brentaal, Sybelle had seen Nubia. It had struck her as a place she should go, which led her to looking for work on a ship with Nubia as a destination. She couldn’t explain the strange feeling that drew her here, but she had time to explore that now.

    Sybelle wandered the spaceport and realized she did feel an odd sense of contentment. She bought food from a vendor and sat to watch beings pass by while she ate.

    As she arrived, the HoloNet news blazed across all manner of screen.


    "CorSec's men and women will not be drafted into Republic service, to die on a distant world outside of Corellia's borders. Nor will armed forces from other worlds be billeted in our homes. […] I will do whatever possible to preserve the integrity of Corellia for Corellians..."

    That was one feed in the spaceport.



    "The Corellian sector, one of the founding fathers of the Republic, is not seceding. However, Corellia will not participate in what it deems a profound error that threatens its sovereignty."


    She had arrived in the Core of the Republic... in-time for the Corellian Sector to secede.

    And little Sybelle knew that the secession meant Dooku.

    The news reports were a concern, it meant she wasn’t safe here. Sybelle had come here on a whim, and had wrongly felt like this was a place she could stay for awhile.

    With a weary sigh she picked up her backpack and walked towards a bulletin board where job offers were posted. Sybelle scanned those listed, but the prospects were grim. It appeared there were a large number of beings suddenly trying to get out.

    Now she’d have to stay overnight and try again tomorrow, which would give her time to rinse out her change of clothes, or find replacements.

    A crowd had gathered, so she had to weave through it to search for a place to stay the night. The prospect of a sanistream and clean bunk sounded so good that she realized she was actually smiling, which was rare.

    The spaceport seemed more crowded as she neared a recruiting office with groups of young men clustered outside. Sybelle’s cheeks felt warm when she locked eyes with a particular guy who wore a serious expression. Something about him made her heart beat faster, and she was struck by how burdened he seemed.

    Sybelle would have given anything to speak to him, but she couldn’t think of anything to say.

    Her eyes almost rolled as she heard her voice in her mind saying, ”Excuse me, sir. You have the most beautiful blue-gray eyes I’ve ever seen.”

    Yeah, she wouldn’t do anything so lame. She definitely could enjoy looking at him, and her gaze shifted from his eyes to his mouth, triggering another warm rush of feelings. After passing him by, she briefly glanced back over her shoulder to see if he was looking at her.

    Sybelle had a strong feeling she’d be seeing his eyes later… in her dreams.

    There was a clear division of peoples here - human, yes, accounting for half, but a quarter were Selonians, and another were Drall - the trio of primary species in the Corellian Sector. Here and there, a Frozian was evident, or a Nosaurian, most of the people present were staring at the screens. Everyone was talking -

    We should leave, there's no need to get involved in a war -

    The Republic will crack if Corellia leaves -

    Dooku is right about the Senate -

    The Trade Federation and their lot will only get away with more if the Jedi are divided -

    What about our Jedi? The Green Council won't just pack up and head to Coruscant, will it?

    Are we about to join the Separatists?

    It gave her plenty of cover, their fear and panic, drumming at her like a heartbeat upon her Force sensitivity.

    A young man bumped into her; he was in a Judicial outfit - Republic blues, and was clearly heading with some pace. "Hey!" He glowered at her. "What are you doing, Pantoran? Where are your parents?" Intelligent eyes swept over her, and his hand went to his blaster. "Stowaw -"

    Sybelle gasped and then tried to recover, “my parents are just there,” she pointed in a grand gesture in a direction behind the man.
    If he looked away she used the Force to push him with a burst of energy, and she dashed for the nearest path between buildings. The moment she was in the shadows, Sybelle tried to use a technique that she’d seen her mother use many times. Her eyes closed and she imagined herself as a shadow, her mother would just become part of the shadows and no one could see her. Could she blend in with the dark and dingy walls?

    Tears streamed down her cheeks while she stood trembling. Mama was so strong, and at the moment Sybelle wasn’t terribly confident that she could do it.

    The young man swore as he was nudged, but thankfully a small mouse droid had been scooting by and he blamed it, losing Sybelle.

    She was alone, hugging those walls, until the walls gave way to a small corridor tucked in-between two crates at the corner of the dock. In Sybelle’s gaze, she would see that the starport was becoming full of blue-coats - Judicials. There was a queue of civilians forming up too, and a clear set of red-coloured ships taking up most of the berths.

    “You picked a bad time to be a stowaway,” came a voice behind her in the shadows.

    Her lips pursed and she murmured “kriff.”

    She’d been able to pass for being a boy in her travels, maybe she could fool this jerk too. “I’m not a stowaway. I work hard and I have references,” her voice was a little shaky, but her use of the Force to impress her will on him wasn’t. “I’m on my way to inquire about a position, you do not need to hold me up any longer.”

    The shadows gave way to a curious creature.


    “Come now… you don’t need credentials here and now. We both walk these illegal shadows… and unless you intend to join the Judicials, you won’t escape the Corellian Sector before the borders close without my help…”

    Fear was starting to creep in, Sybelle knew there were horrible beings that stole children and sold them as slaves. She couldn’t suppress the shiver that suddenly crept down her spine.

    Finally she stood with her hands on her hips, with an expression that was genuinely indignant. She boldly demanded to know who this stranger was. “You’re acting like someone who knows me, but you don’t! Who are you?”

    “I don’t need to know you, you’re an…” a curl and unfurl of a limb. “Archetype. The young stray, fleeing her past, or chasing her future. Or both.”

    “You can accept my help,” a chuckle and he pointed a clawed tip. “Or join the recruitment line. Go official; legit. The war is to come, and how safe will you be on the frontlines?”

    A guffaw.

    “I’ll probably just take my chances, but thanks anyway, mister.” Sybelle swallowed back bile that had risen in her throat. This creeper was surely going to sell her to a slimy Hutt.

    She was slowly backing away from the terrifying spider-person.

    "Don't say I didn't warn you..."

    And he vanished into the shadows as he stepped back.

    Her petite body shuddered, shoulders slumped in relief. This was a bad place, but it would be next to impossible to escape without actually stowing away aboard a ship. That didn’t sound like a good idea given the current climate, so she kept to alleyways to escape the spaceport.

    Once outside in the city, she tried to blend in with other beings shopping and going about their daily activities. The first thing she needed to do was find work that would get her off the streets, and hopefully provide some protection from being accosted by anyone else.

    Sybelle considered possibilities and thought she might work as a maid on a big estate, that couldn’t be worse than pretending to be a boy cleaning out filthy freighters.

    The city was full of people coming and going, however, and a man was shouting at the Judicials. "I am Senator Graul of Nubia. How dare you not allow me to pass."

    "All Corellian politicians are considered to be enemies of the Republic since Senator Bel Iblis' announcement," the man said firmly. "You're a subsector Senator, yes? You're bound by the sector capital unless you intend to not secede?"

    "Who cares about secession? My son is missing and I have tracked him to this spaceport. You will yield, or I will call down all of CorSec on you."

    "And trigger a war, sir?" The officer said firmly.

    "The war is coming, you fools, I am just getting the first punch in."

    The Judicials, a dozen humans, looked at each other, unsure.

    But it was the perfect cover for her to sneak through, and indeed there was a hover-limo with a door gaping open behind the pompous Senator.

    Sybelle gave a quick glance back to the angry man before she made her decision. This spaceport had too much security, she would leave and try again in a few days.

    She kept her head down and crawled into the floorboard of the limo, there was just enough space to stuff her backpack under the rear seat and tuck in next to it. Sybelle closed her eyes to focus on shrinking her presence, but she yawned and dozed off. It had been a long time since she’d felt comfortable enough to go to sleep.

    It worked, because she was good at it - but when she woke... the limousine was in a garage.

    Inside a building.

    What woke her, well, it was pretty obvious.

    Her stomach had growled.

    She wasn’t sure when her last meal had been, Sybelle tried to remember as she crawled from under the seat, then she retrieved her bag before she snuck out of the vehicle. It was when she’d arrive early this morning, was it even the same day?

    Moving within the shadow was a natural talent for her, most of the time. She knew not to get too cocky, which is what her dad had often reminded her when she’d acted too bold.

    The garage had doors on opposite ends, she picked the one that felt closest to food. Stepping outside her eyes widened in wonder, because Sybelle was standing in a grove of fruit trees that surrounded a vegetable garden.

    As hard as she tried, she couldn’t reach the apples, even from the lowest branches… but Sybelle wasn’t deterred. One little motion with her index finger, and the stem of a plump apple snapped before it fell neatly into her hands.

    It had to be the best apple she’d ever tasted, Sybelle thought as she explored the garden. She sampled clusters of juicy grapes that dangled from vines, then she tasted a sour yellow fruit that she’d never seen before. This was the best place she’d ever been.

    "Can I help?" It was a woman's voice, a little shrill, but clearly Corellian.

    “Eek” Sybelle hadn’t felt anyone approaching because she’d been foolishly focused on trying every fruit in the garden. “Umm,” she quickly wiped her face on her sleeve, “I —is this your garden? It’s lovely… and, I’m sorry. I was really hungry.”

    She realized that her clothes were rags, hardly anything presentable to a woman with a garden like this. Sybelle steeled herself to be thrown off the property, or to be arrested.

    The woman smiled, lightly. "It's quite alright. I didn't expect to see you here, but I appreciate that things are..." She hesitated. "Dire out there; the galaxy is in turmoil, and refugees are everywhere." She indicated kindly to the fruit. "Go, carry on."

    The teen was humbled by the woman’s kindness, “I would be happy to do chores to cover the cost of the food I ate.” She couldn’t let this fine lady think she was a thief, Sybelle wasn’t sure why she felt that way, but she did.

    Tilting her chin up, she motioned to the garden, “I’m quite knowledgeable about botany, maybe I could help with your garden?”

    The herb garden hasn’t escaped her notice, she’d just been distracted by her hunger at first. Now, she wanted to get a look at what was planted there.

    "Oh, I would quite like that. My husband has left for the capital, and I have a spare room now anyway." She smiled, and gestured to the garden. "Help yourself. Show me what you know, um, what is your name, young lady? You'll have to let me know what a Pantoran is doing on Nubia."

    The woman held up her hand. "But only when and if you're ready. Now, those herbs..."

    Sybelle’s eyes widened a moment. It had been a long time, since her parents had been gone, that anyone spoke to her with such… tolerance. The only being who really spoke to her were those who wanted something.

    She dipped a graceful courtesy and answered, “I am Sybelle.” Her confidence returned, because herbs was a subject she was comfortable speaking about. “You’ve got a few very nice, even rare, varieties. If you're open to suggestions I know of a very nice tea blend we could make. It’s quite therapeutic, my mama would make it for my father if he was stressed.”

    It was easy to speak to this woman, she felt safe, like being among her family again. Sybelle chatted away about various plants, their healing properties, and even some that she made the woman promise not to consume. “Those are deadly, promise me you won’t touch them,” Sybelle’s voice grave. She suggested a small sign be added to label those plants as poisonous.

    All the while her mind was wandering to the woman’s earlier question, and hoping that she’d forget.

    "I promise," the woman said, soothingly. "Nice to meet you, Sybelle."

    The woman smiled kindly, enjoying her obvious enthusiasm. "My name is Ashaiya. Now come in, I'll do us some lunch."

    Sybelle smiled and replied, “that sounds great! May I help, Ashaiya? I love helping in the kitchen! My —um…” She’s almost told her new friend how she’d helped her mom and aunt prepare food, but truthfully she could barely remember those moments now. “I really would like to help, if you’ll allow me,” Sybelle said in a more subdued tone.

    “I could gather ingredients or a salad,” she told the older woman, and without waiting for a response, Sybelle started selecting vegetables from the garden.

    Tag: @HanSolo29 @Sinrebirth
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2022
  8. HanSolo29

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

    Apr 13, 2001
    OOC: A combo with Sinrebirth – thank you so much! :D

    IC: Aryan Graul, Gilad Pellaeon, and Doctor Sivan
    Spaceport, Nuba City, Nubia

    The crowded thoroughfare provided enough of a distraction to keep Aryan from dwelling on his troubled thoughts. Denizens of all shapes and sizes, species and cultures, had filtered into the spaceport upon receiving the news of Corellia’s secession—which included Nubia as one of her satellite worlds. They were here for a variety of reasons; some feared the inevitable power struggle that would soon consume the system, while others simply sought to protect their own interests.

    Or they were here for factors similar to his own; to join the fight and make a difference in the galaxy—

    Aryan frowned and lowered his chin, shoving his hands into the pockets of his trousers. Maybe he wasn’t that valiant. While it was true that he wanted to become a pilot and see the stars, his motivations for serving were more selfish in nature. His father’s unreasonable demands had forced him to flee his home and family. Joining the Republic Navy was the most logical solution at the time, especially since it would afford him a fresh start. The only problem was that he was underage.

    The minimum enlistment age was eighteen standard years, but he was still short of that by four. He was essentially a kid on the cusp of adolescence, and while it was possible that he could probably convince the recruiters that he was a late bloomer, it was likely a stretch. He stood out among the others, which made him nervous that someone would discover him.

    If not his father, then someone else…

    As if on cue, Aryan froze in the queue as he became aware of another pair of eyes watching him. The hairs on the back of his neck stood on end, prompting him to shift his travel bag from one shoulder to the other. Only then did he lift his chin to glance at the crowd, noticing a young woman staring at him from across the promenade. She had peculiar chestnut eyes that flashed with a hint of red, and her complexion almost appeared a pale blue, though he couldn’t tell if it was simply an illusion of the overhead lighting. Either way, he found her stunning, and he couldn’t help but stare back at her.

    Their eyes might’ve met—but in that instant, she turned away and disappeared into the shadows. He watched after her a moment before a few disgruntled voices informed him that the line had moved ahead.

    Adjusting his travel bag once more, Aryan shuffled forward.

    There was a young man at the table, sporting a waif of chin hair that belied that he was young, rather than the probable intention of the growth. He didn't look up from his flimsi sheet. "Name, age, planet of origin."

    He had a Corellian twang, not entirely replaced with a Coruscanti accent.

    Aryan had rehearsed this moment countless times in his head, committing the words to memory to ensure that they passed the censors. In order to convince the recruiters of his story, he needed to convey a strong sense of confidence without appearing overly eager. It was a fine balance, and he feared that his uncertainty would destroy the illusion.

    Fortunately, the man sitting behind the desk didn’t look much older than himself. It bolstered his resolve as he approached the station and adjusted the bag on his shoulder.

    "Aryan Kinth," he replied smoothly, adopting his mother’s maiden name to not call attention to his heritage. He could never use his real name under the circumstances, not with his family’s influence in this sector. Graul Enterprises was a critical element that fed directly into both the local and galactic economies, while his father served as Nubia’s representative in the Galactic Senate. They would never allow someone from such a privileged background to pass without scrutiny. He only hoped that this young man was not well-informed and had failed to brush up on his Graul Family history.

    Clearing his throat, Aryan quickly carried on before the man could question him. "Eighteen, Nubia."

    In an effort to prove his age, he forced his voice down to the lowest pitch he could manage, although it probably sounded more like he had contracted some kind of respiratory illness.

    The young man looked up at him, startled. His brown eyes narrowed, and then his face tightened, clearly seeing something. He stood up and was clearly still growing out of his own puppy fat. "Come with me."

    "Rostek, can you take my place?" The man that the recruitment officer was instead in CorSec colours - not a Judicial, like the former.

    "Sure," he said, drily. "Don't be long, Gilad. I'm supposed to be making sure you don't coerce Corellians to leave the sector, not manning the recruitment station."

    "I won't, I won't," 'Gilad' waved him down. "Aryan, follow me, please."

    Striding as if he owned the place, the young man led the younger man into the temporary construction, medical curtains evident, and droids outnumbering the human clinicians doing the physicals. He didn't say a word to Aryan, even if probed.

    Something about the way the young man looked at him struck Aryan the wrong way. There was either suspicion… or recognition reflecting in his dark eyes, which only exacerbated his anxiety. His heart began to pound relentlessly against his chest, and he pivoted on his heel to flee—

    But then he stopped himself, nearly tripping over his travel bag with his forward momentum.


    He couldn’t retreat now. That would attract too much attention. If the recruiter hadn’t already pegged him as a stowaway and alerted the authorities, rushing the crowd to flee would certainly do the trick. He had to maintain his composure and see this through—at least until he could find a clear avenue of escape.

    Pulling the bag back over his shoulder and clenching the strap in a white-knuckled grip, Aryan shuffled forward to follow the man known as 'Gilad' behind the partition. Before slipping out of sight, he cast a sideways glance toward the desk and the CorSec officer who had assumed Gilad's role. He quickly deduced that these two weren't following standard operating procedures based on what he had witnessed. It was a curious notion, though it also served as a reminder that he had to remain cautious.

    "That wasn’t routine," Aryan stated flatly, his eyes shifting to idly observe the various droids and medical practitioners in the area. "I’ve done enough research to know how the process is supposed to work."

    Inclining his chin, he finally met Gilad’s gaze with calm determination. He knew the odds were not in his favor, but he could not allow that to deter him from his goal. He would uphold his narrative for as long as possible.

    "Is something wrong… sir?"

    "Of course," Gilad said, narrowing his eyes. "You're not old enough to sign up."

    His expression cleared. "And neither was I when I did." A soft smile.

    He indicated the curtained-off area. "Why do you think you didn't see a droid for your medical?"

    A medic stepped into the room before Aryan could speak, pulling on gloves. "Another one to sneak under the radar, Pellaeon?"

    "It's Gilad, Doctor Sivan."

    The doctor himself was fairly nondescript, save for being bald.

    "So... what do we have here?"

    The boy pursed his lips, his gaze drifting back and forth between Gilad and the doctor. Inwardly, he felt foolish for appearing so naive in front of his superiors. They had obviously seen it all before, so despite his efforts, his plan was never going to succeed. Aryan could’ve easily turned away to wallow in his wounded pride, but instead, he was mature enough to recognize that they had taken a significant risk by bringing him here. He couldn’t dismiss that, not when they had shown him empathy.

    "I want to be a pilot," Aryan replied meekly, canting his head to focus solely on the doctor. "It’s all I’ve ever wanted; I figured with the war, this could be my only chance… especially since things haven’t been the most stable at home. Why stick around and waste my talents on mundane work when I can make a difference in the wider galaxy?"

    He realized that he had never spoken those words aloud before, and it felt good to finally get them off his chest. It was the beginning of a new journey—away from the overbearing hand of his father.

    To reinforce those sentiments, Aryan glanced toward Gilad once more. "Thanks," he uttered quietly under his breath.

    Gilad smiled, slightly, and nodded to Sivan. "Over to you."

    "Good luck, Kinth." A wink and Gilad exited the curtained area.

    The doctor regarded Aryan. "I'm happy to fudge a few records, and that naivety is touching, but - I need to know how old you are. I can always say you lied to me, but if you're like 11, I won't be able to argue I'm that bad at my job." A toothy grin.

    "But I get you. I used to be a field medic with the Judicial Corps. We all want to do our part." A vague gesture at the departed officer. "Like Gilad, there."

    A frown crossed Aryan’s features at the doctor’s commentary—did he truly look that young? Eleven? It was a bit discouraging to hear the man suggest such a thing, but he understood that he was only doing his job. Liability was certainly an issue for someone in the medical field.

    "Fourteen," he revealed with an equally toothy grin. As he spoke the words out loud, it reinforced his belief that he would be able to pass the initial assessment. It bolstered his confidence, prompting him to finally inquire about Pellaeon.

    "So, Gilad’s like me, huh?" Aryan continued as he glanced in the direction of the young man’s departure, curious to learn more about him. "How many others have you helped? I didn’t realize there was a system… but I suppose it makes sense. I guess we’re the only ones innocent enough to want to join a war." He scoffed and canted his head to regard the doctor. "'See the sights; it’s your gateway to the galaxy', right?"

    The Doctor scoffed. "Oh yes, it's all me taking advantage of naive strays." He gestured lazily, twirling his wrist as if giving instructions to a dancer of exotic fare. "Undress, come on, the droids will notice how long this is taking soon."

    He continued on otherwise, as he turned away. Despite that almost every inspection involved someone stripping down to their undergarments, there was an intimate part to removing one's clothes that meant a medical professional would always turn away, notwithstanding that they were going to look back as soon as the attire was off. In the before, and after, there was certainty, but the Between was full of many possibilities, as with many, many things.

    He began pulling on translucent gloves in the meantime.

    "But no, it's more often than not youngsters running away from something, rather than towards. Gilad wanted to serve, rather than escape a situation." He double-checked his equipment absently. "Which is it with you, young man?"

    For a moment, Aryan felt ashamed for comparing himself to Gilad. Unlike himself, Pellaeon’s reasons for joining the military at such a young age were noble, not based on fear… or necessity. In that sense, Aryan still had a lot to learn. He didn’t even need to physically undress to feel exposed.

    Nevertheless, the young man forced himself to overcome his apprehension in one last effort to preserve his pride. After removing his shirt, he lowered his pants nonchalantly in accordance with the doctor's instructions.

    "It’s not running away… not exactly," Aryan replied evenly, his blue-gray eyes shining with conviction as he lifted his head to meet the man’s gaze. "My mom knows where I’m at; she gave me her blessing. If she wanted, she could send an escort down here to retrieve me, but she won’t. She understands the stakes."

    He inhaled deeply, his gaze turning distant. "Everyone thinks home is safe... until it isn't."

    "Oh, what's unsafe about Nubia, nestled in the Corellian Sector?" But the doctor didn't miss the omission, turning back and beginning to wrap a monitor around Aryan's bare arm, his chair skittering with his weight. "And your father?"

    May as well cut to the point; the man's bedside manner was spot-on. He clearly paid attention.

    The boy tensed as the doctor tightened the apparatus on his arm, though he made a point to keep his expression neutral. The man had hit close to the mark, and he wasn’t exactly inclined to reveal too much information on that subject, especially if it exposed his heritage.

    Then again, Aryan suspected the doctor already knew the truth. As the son of a prominent Senator and entrepreneur, his face had appeared on the HoloNet more times than he cared to count. He certainly hadn’t experienced a normal childhood; it was the exact opposite, and in some cases, he resented it.

    "He’ll accept it with time," he murmured quietly, his tone tinged with malice. "Maybe it’ll even prove beneficial. He could use something like this to reassess his priorities… but that’s probably wishful thinking. I doubt he’ll ever change."

    Clenching his jaw, Aryan inclined his chin with renewed determination, his voice almost pleading. "That’s why I need to do this."

    The doctor nodded. "So it's not just about running from something..." He regarded Aryan with his eyes as he stabbed and prodded and squeezed. "It's about running towards something."

    A smile. "And if that happens to spite the old man, all the better."

    "I like it, kid, but next time, ask a slicer to change your records. It'll be easier on you. Gilad still got caught by me, but the droids completely cleared him." A slight chuckle. He absently indicated the pile of clothes. "You're clear to go, young man."

    Reaching into a cupboard, he threw a sealed uniform bag at him; cadet level. "Off you go. Knowing Gilad, he'll try and get you a berth on his own ship."

    Aryan issued a contented sigh and hopped down from the examining table, a radiant smile overtaking his features. While he attempted to conceal it from view, he ultimately failed in that endeavor. He was too excited to contain the joy he felt at this moment. Not only had the doctor understood his plight with his father, which was an immense relief in itself, but he had approved him to serve. It finally felt as if he had achieved something, and he was on his way to a new and better life... away from Norin.

    "I appreciate your help," he spouted hurriedly, catching the uniform packet in both hands. As soon as he broke the seal, he quickly donned the tunic and trousers provided and proceeded to stuff his street clothes back into the empty bag. He then pulled the cap over his head to complete the ensemble.

    As he worked to adjust the fit, admiring himself in the reflective panel on the opposite wall, he suddenly seemed to remember his place. "You know I’ll never forget this," he spoke more earnestly, nodding his head to acknowledge the man. "I owe you one… and Gilad too, but uh… well, I guess I can soon tell him myself."

    Aryan snapped his heels together and offered a mock salute. "Thank you, sir."

    He then slipped from the tent and disappeared from sight.

    TAG: @Sinrebirth; @Lady_Belligerent
  9. Sinrebirth

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

    Nov 15, 2004
    Over three years passed.

    The Separatist Crisis grew deeper, as thousands of systems seceded.

    The Clone Wars began, and the Judicials were called up to augment the new Clone Army.

    A thousand
    Acclamator-class starships became the vanguard of those battles, leading ground invasions to support beleaguered worlds, while Venator-class Star Destroyers plied the space-lanes and spewed forth V-19 Torrent starfighters, TIE prototypes, and modern Y-wing bombers.

    Nubia sat, nestled in the Core Worlds, which remained, by and large, Republic aligned. Nearby Corellia remained independent, and Neimodia was blockaded, but the Battles of Sarapin and Brentaal had been won by the Republic in the first year of the war.

    In the Outer Rim, though, the Republic had recently lost the Battles of Sullust, Jabiim and Aargonar - and many Jedi were among those dead. Even Master Yoda had recently been driven from Thustra...

    There were endless rumours that the infamous General Grievous had been spotted near Yag'Dhul... that a vast offensive was due to crash into the Core.

    Worries and speculation grew across the Republic...

    ... and a fleet was sent to Merson, to turn the tide.
  10. Sinrebirth

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

    Nov 15, 2004
    IC: Gilad Pellaeon

    Three Acclamator-class warships was more than enough for this battle.

    The Stenness Node was a hotbed of Separatist intrigue, what with nearby Onderon eternally leaning towards Dooku, and pirates often plied the hyperlanes even before the war. Now the 'Merson Pirates' flew Confederate colours, targeting only Republic vessels using the hyperspace node to head to the embattled Rim front.

    Pellaeon was here to bring that to an end.

    Not alone, of course, he noted. His eyes searched out those in his briefing room.


    Jedi Master Ronhar Kim, their General; stern.


    , Jedi Padawan, the Commander; "Tap".

    And of course Dox, the General's clone pairing, and others besides.

    The primary starfighter squadron of the Leveler was present too, and Gilad found his eyes roving, looking for a young man he had helped join up, far, far, too young.


    Smiling slightly behind his moustache, he nonetheless nodded at the right time as Dox spoke on.

    "We have accurate Intelligence as of six hours before we set off from Coruscant," the clone confirmed, and indicated the planetary map. "We expect the typical droid fare - B1s, B2s, Trade Federation tanks and Corporate Alliance walkers."

    "For which we have AT-TEs," supplied Tap. "And air-cover."

    "We can't discount that the asteroid field won't be used to hide droid starfighters," Dox cautioned. "So we will have to guard for that."

    "I am sure that we can keep back a squadron to cover that, if the Jedi are to head to the surface," Gilad answered. But it was Ronhar Kim who was silent, seemingly in a deep reprieve of some kind.

    Gilad glanced to Aryan, nearly frowning.

    TAG: @HanSolo29
    IC: Ashaiya Graul


    Home for Sybelle became, eventually, if only because of the garden, Nubia.

    Corellia was independent, which meant Nubia was immune from being struck at by either the Republic or Separatists for fear of bringing a thousand unaligned systems to the opposite side. Ignoring that the Corellian Sector had its own bruising set of defenses, befitting a Core founder, Nubia was likely the safest place that Sybelle had ever been.

    Notwithstanding, the quiet garden parties that Ashaiya hosted were often hours of watching the HoloNet and fretting.

    Her husband, Norin, had not returned home since the disappearance of their son Aryan.

    Sybelle would have witnessed that awful argument, told to stay out of sight by Ashaiya, where they had each blamed the other. But Norin had left for Coruscant, to act as the diplomatic representative for the sector, and never looked back. Divorce papers had not been filed, because that would have brought disrepute upon the family, and nor had Norin's subsequent liaisons been remotely public.

    All Ashaiya and the family knew of Norin was in snatched moments of him being seen in tandem with the Chancellor, or the Vice Chancellor Mas Amedda, or the Loyalist Committee, as the press deemed the every fluctuating group of advisors that circled Palpatine. Indeed, Norin was evident on-screen now, standing besides Bail Organa, Mon Mothma, Padme Amidala, Lexi Dio, Ronet Coorr, Onaconda Farr and Director of Republic Intelligence Armand Isard.

    The feed was muted, but the Aurebesh that ran at the bottom of the screen confirmed that Palpatine was speaking about the recent Battle of Cerea, yet another defeat beyond the Inner Rim, and announcing that Obi-Wan Kenobi had been recovered from the clutches of the vile Asajj Ventress.

    Ashaiya was only hosting one visitor today.

    Arrianya Bel Iblis.

    The woman, the wife of the infamous Garm Bel Iblis, the former Senator of Corellia and now a General in its fleet, was fawning over Palpatine, as she was want to do.

    Releasing a slight sigh, Ashaiya looked for Sybelle. "More tea, please?"

    TAG: @Lady_Belligerent
  11. Lady_Belligerent

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

    Jan 29, 2008
    A combo with @Sinrebirth - thank you for all the time you invest in your games. It’s always a pleasure to write with you!

    IC: Sybelle

    Nubia - Graul Estate

    Life on the Graul estate was the closest thing to a home Sybelle had ever known. She still missed her parents, but they’d never had a real home like the Graul’s, they’d always been on the move.

    Those thoughts needed to stay locked away, she didn’t want to spend all her time being sad. There would be no changing the past, and her parents never came to find her… dead people don’t come back.

    Sybelle had dressed carefully, Ashaiya had taught her about how to dress like a young woman. She’d insisted Sybelle toss out the clothing she’d worn to sneak on ships pretending to be a boy. Ashaiya even knew how to control Sybelle’s out of control wavy hair, and she gave her beautiful pins to secure it back neatly.

    With the hateful Mr. Graul away, they spent hours in the gardens, or reading companionably in the library together. Sybelle hoped he would stay away forever, she would never respect him after hearing the horrible things he said to his wife.

    But, mostly she wished for Ashaiya’s son to return home safely. Sybelle had been drawn to Aryan’s beautiful eyes; she often found herself studying holos of him. The strange thing was, Sybelle was sure that she knew the sound of his voice. He was so familiar, yet they’d never met…right?

    She’d been cutting some lilies for a vase to put in Ashaiya’s room when she heard the mistress call to her. She sat down the basket she was carrying and rushed to the table on the patio that they’d laid out for entertaining.

    "More tea, please?" Ashaiya asked Sybelle.

    “Yes, ma’am,” the girl smiled softly, another helpful lesson from Mrs. Graul. “Would you like me to bring out some sandwiches? Cook also made a lovely fruit salad?” Sybelle asked.

    “Excellent,” Ashaiya said.

    As she went to do so, Mrs Bel Iblis muttered, not quietly. “It’s so sweet of you to take on a charity case.”

    “Sybelle does her fair share of helping me around the house,” Ashaiya said, defensively.

    “But you don’t even know what species she is -“

    “Well that’s untrue -“

    “She’s not Pantoran -“

    “Actually, I do have some leads on who she is.”

    “Oh do you,” came the peeved, superior Mrs Bel Iblis. “Do share.”

    “Not now,” Ashaiya said curtly.

    Sybelle slowed when she heard Ashaiya’s guest refer to her as a charity case. She’d heard other servants make comments about her, but this lady’s tone worried her. What if she told Mr. Graul? Sybelle would do anything to protect her benefactor, and was afraid of how he would treat Ashaiya for taking her in.

    Ashaiya defended Sybelle to the lady, which was kind, but it was clear that Mrs. Bel Iblis strongly disapproved of her.

    She stalled out of sight of the table for as long as she could, Sybelle had already decided to go hide in her room when Ashaiya told the woman she had leads of Sybelle’s identity. This was all too much. She’d trusted Ashaiya, but now Sybelle felt betrayed.

    The teapot she’d been carrying slipped from her grasp and fell to the flagstone patch. Sybelle ran into the dense foliage of the garden and disappeared. I won’t give them the pleasure of seeing how they’ve hurt me. Being a child alone in the Galaxy was dangerous. Sybelle had learned that the hard way, and she’d met many other children that were like her. The tales of children sold as slaves, some were abused in ways that their stories haunted Sybelle.

    On one long space flight, a grizzled old man told her that it was better to just surrender herself to the slavers and work as a prostitute. He terrified Sybelle so much that she snuck off the ship the moment it docked.

    Feeling scared, and now embarrassed for breaking the lovely porcelain teapot, Sybelle ran to the oasis she and Ashaiya had created in the heart of the gardens.

    It was a place that offered them peace from the demands of the Estate. Ashaiya and Sybelle had instructed the gardeners specifically how to trim the shrubbery around it, and they ordered decorative screens to give the area even more privacy. Sybelle sat there for hours reading books from the library in the house.

    That’s where Sybelle retreated after hearing the conversation between Ashaiya and Mrs. Bel Iblis.

    There was a commotion in the house, and Mrs Bel Iblis left.

    After a while, Ashaiya came to find her, with a fresh teapot in her hands atop a tray. "Sybelle? I take it you heard. I can explain, in-fact I'd very much like to." A slight sigh. "I just didn't want to upset you if I hadn't actually found your parents... or I had." She sounded very sad.

    “You won’t find my parents,” Sybelle whispered. She didn’t look at Ashaiya when she spoke, “are you looking for a place to send me? Is that why you tried to find them?”

    She hoped that Ashaiya’s actions were in good faith, but Mrs. Bel Iblis clearly didn’t approve of Sybelle, so that tainted how the entire discussion felt. It really hadn’t been fair to judge Ashaiya’s intentions based on that.

    “I apologize for listening to your conversation,” Sybelle said feeling contrite, “I know it was wrong… it was just a shock.”

    Ashaiya sat down heavily in the garden, placing the tray between them. "I found out what happened to them, but it is will be more of a shock, I feel." A shadow crossed over her face. "You don't need to apologise, though, Lady Bel Iblis was being both loud and rude." Ashaiya pulled a face. "As she is want to be, blustering around like her husband and causing drama."

    A slight shake of her head, and Ashaiya regarded Sybelle, not yet picking up the teapot. "Do you want to know?"

    Sybelle looked at the ground a moment before she answered, “they’re dead, Ashaiya, I felt it when they died. I don’t know the exact details, maybe you know?”

    She bit her lower lip and tried to appear as if she was numb to the subject, but she wasn’t. Her parents had been good to her, and she would always remember them fondly. What happened wasn’t their fault.

    There had been times when she’d been angry at how they’d left her to survive, but she was now older and more mature. They had not chosen to leave her, and for a long time Sybelle felt like it might’ve been easier to have stayed and perished with them.

    “I had a baby sister, Sadie,” Sybelle whispered, “she wasn’t with us…” She couldn’t hold back the tears any longer, and Sybelle broke into sobs. The grief she’d kept bottled up now poured out.

    "You felt it?" Ashaiya said, questioning, and became to wonder about the young girls M-cell count. She was broken from her reverie by Sybelle breaking down into tears, mentioning Sadie, a sister, for the first time ever. "Oh my sweet child..." Ashaiya took her into her arms, and held her close.

    "Were your parents named Sev'rane Tann and Vandalor? If so, I can tell you what happened to them." A smaller voice. "How they died - but there was never any mention of Sadie, I can tell you that."

    Sybelle nodded, it would be disrespectful of her parents memory to decline. “I guess I should know the details, even if it opens old wounds,” her voice had the tone of someone years older.

    She grasped Ashaiya’s hand for strength, and finally looked at her benefactor. “Sadie had been left with my aunt while we were away, I don’t recall where we went or why, I was excited to have mom and dad by myself.” She shook her head slightly, as if it would refresh an old memory, “there was a man, he had a very posh voice,” her voice was very soft now. “Nothing else,” Sybelle shrugged, “I think I’m ready,” her grasp on Ashaiya’s hand tightened, “please tell me.”

    Ashaiya mentally noted that they should check-in with that aunt sooner rather than later.

    "Your mother was Sev'rance Tann," she explained, and produced a small holoproj.


    "She was the Supreme Commander of the Droid Army for the first weeks of the Clone Wars," Ashaiya said, matter of factually but not too sharply. "Before she was killed at the Battle of Krant by Jedi Master Echuu Shen-Jon, perhaps in retaliation for her slaying his Padawan at the Battle of Geonosis."


    "Your father was Vandalor and he was bodyguard to the Techno Union leader Wat Tambor during the Cortosis Droid Insurrection" she went on, describing an assault by modified Super Battle Droids on Coruscant itself, "and he died at the Battle of Metalorn, slain by Anakin Skywalker himself."

    With that, she took a deep breath.

    "They've both been gone for a year now."

    Sybelle nodded slowly. She had known when they each had died, but now she knew the circumstances of their deaths. Of course she hadn’t known her mother had been the Supreme Commander of the Droid Army, or that both her parents had been killed by Jedi.

    “Thank you, Ashaiya,” she answered. “But, why did you look for them?”

    "Because I wanted you to have peace," Ashaiya said, firmly. "Family is the most important thing, but it's also the most painful thing. It cuts even when absent, and even when present."

    She squeezed Sybelle's hand. "I wanted you to have closure, so you could become more of the wonderful, beautiful girl I've come to know and cherish as a daughter of sorts. With Aryan still missing, and his sister away at school on Coruscant -"

    Ashaiya hesitated slightly, overcome with hope.

    Sybelle almost missed it… daughter?

    She’d just put her arms around Ashaiya to embrace her when the older woman mentioned a daughter away at school.

    “I thought Aryan was your only child?” Sybelle asked quietly. “I’ve only seen the holos of him in the house, and you’ve never mentioned her before.”

    Family could be important, so it seemed quite odd that in the time spent with Ashaiya, she’d never mentioned a daughter before. Especially since she spoke of Aryan often, and seemed to miss him dreadfully.

    Ashaiya shrugged. "My relationship with Kandri is... strained."

    "You don't speak much about your sister, either," she opined.

    Even now, after two and more years, they were each holding their pain close.

    “Sadie was just a baby when we left her with my aunt, they said she would be safer there, while my parents took care of something,” Sybelle explained.

    “She was so cute and very tiny, everyone said she looked like me,” she sniffed. “I hope she’s safe,” Sybelle’s voice was somber. “What’s your daughter like?” She asked Ashaiya.

    "Oh, I wouldn't know," she clarified. "She's been off-world for sometime, and I get updates via the teacher." A hesitation. "She was a... troubled child. It's been nearly five years now... I don't even know if Aryan remembers her."

    A slight sigh. "I say school, but others would say asylum... she's been moved around a few times now." The woman was shaking in anger. "Norin doesn't tell me where she is, I just access his correspondence without him knowing. First Bedlam, then Coruscant... now Arkania, I gather, which is terrifying."

    She swept out her hands. "But this garden is the only place I'm sure that Norin hasn't bugged."

    This was too much. Sybelle knew Mr. Graul was a vile man, but to do this to Ashaiya? She was the kindest person Sybelle had known, why would he hurt her by taking away her child?

    “Ashaiya,” Sybelle took the older woman’s hands in hers, “please don’t be angry by this personal question, but why do you stay with Mr. Graul? He is horrible to you, and your children.”

    The fact that he spied on Ashaiya was unbelievable. Sybelle needed to be mindful of conversations inside the house that could get Ashaiya into trouble with that bastard.

    “Why don’t we find Kandri and see how she is?”

    "I stay..." Ashaiya said, wistfully. "Because I am accustomed to my standard of living?" A chortle; no, not that. "I'm old, Sybelle, I can't start over." She scooped her hands in hers. "And Aryan, I am sure he'll be home. I can almost see it, sometimes."

    Her eyes unfocused. "How can I leave him to Norin's mercy?"

    “You cannot,” Sybelle sympathized, “he must be protected from your husband. But, shouldn’t Kandri be protected too?”

    Surely Ashaiya had some resources that her husband couldn’t take away. “Would you consider leaving with Aryan when he returns?” She asked. Sybelle was grasping for an escape for her friend.

    “We could go together,” she squeezed Ashaiya’s hand, “I will help you.”

    She squeezed back, tears in her eyes. "With you and Aryan, yes, that's the only way I'd dare do it."

    Relief had washed over Sybelle after her benefactor agreed to leave once her son came home. She was considering how to go about getting word to him, surely there was some way to track down where Aryan went when he left Nubia. Surely he knew how horrible Mr. Graul treated Ashaiya.

    Her mind was reeling with possibilities for how to locate Aryan and then get Ashaiya to a safer place. Perhaps Aryan left a clue in his room that hasn’t been found? Sybelle was about to ask Ashaiya where they had searched on the estate when they were interrupted.

    There was a chime, someone was at the door.

    Ashaiya flinched as if struck. "I need to get that." But she was in a state, tears streaming. She wouldn't be ready for several minutes, at least. The door chimed again, and Aashaiya looked more panicked.

    “Are you expecting anyone?” Sybelle asked, while taking a clean cloth from her apron. “Here take this to dry your tears,” she said softly, “do you want me to go for you?”

    Sybelle decided not to wait for an answer, she got up and ran towards the house, it was obviously someone with very little patience since they’d rang a second time.

    Hurrying towards the entrance hall, Sybelle slowed and straightened her hair so she’d look professional answering the door.

    Tag: @HanSolo29 @Sinrebirth
    Sinrebirth and HanSolo29 like this.
  12. HanSolo29

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

    Apr 13, 2001
    OOC: The following is a combo with Sinrebirth – thank you so much!! [:D]

    IC: Aryan Graul, Ronhar Kim, Gilad Pellaeon, Tap-Nar-Pal, and Commander Dox
    Hyperspace, Aboard the Leveler

    With his arms crossed loosely over his chest and his eyes narrowed in concentration, Commander Aryan Graul listened intently to the military briefing for the Merson campaign. Based on the parameters laid forth by Commander Dox of the Clone Army, the mission called for a typical defense grid to protect the ground troops while they carried out their assault on the surface. It sounded simple enough, though he knew there was probably a catch. Especially if it involved pirates. When it came to mercenaries, nothing was ever easy.

    Inhaling deeply, he conveyed those sentiments through a simple sideways glance at his team of pilots. It was with pride that he stood with the eccentric group that formed Razor Cat Squadron, aptly named after the feline predator of the Corellian System. In fact, he had suggested the designation himself years ago when he was little more than a scrub trying to prove his worth.

    A hint of a smirk flitted across his lips at the memory. It had been a long and arduous journey to reach this point in his career, but he had persevered to become one of the youngest squadron leaders in the fleet. He had only just turned eighteen, having celebrated his Life Day a week prior. Some of the older officers had scoffed at his youth and alleged naivete. He knew that many of them still believed that he had merely achieved his rank due to his status as the son of a prominent politician.

    Again, he made no effort to hide his smirk. If only they saw him fly. That would silence their criticism pretty damned quickly. He was one of the best. The Razors knew the truth; he would have to badger them to pass the word. It was all part of their camaraderie.

    As that thought crossed his mind, his eyes met the gaze of another colleague from across the room. Gilad Pellaeon was the reason Aryan was here in the first place; he owed the man his life. Despite the risks involved, Pellaeon had assisted him in enlisting without meeting the minimum age requirements. It was a favor he would never forget, particularly when he considered his desperation at the time. He had wanted a fresh start, and Gilad had provided that for him.

    Since then, the two have developed a friendly rapport, often sharing ideas and spending time together in each other’s company during leave. He truly did come to perceive Pellaeon as a mentor.

    Even now, his trust and profound respect for the man played an integral role in his decision to ultimately step forth and volunteer the Razors for this mission.

    "Sir," Aryan announced his presence in a firm voice, clicking his heels together as he stood at attention. "Razor Cat Squadron would be honored to lend our services for this task. We can fly as escorts and provide protection for the fleet. My pilots are more than capable; they won’t let you down."

    "Excellent," Gilad replied, and Dox frowned slightly. "I'll have the Acclamators stand-off in the first instance for any capital ship response, but when the landing area is clear I'll bring one down to secure the LZ."

    He nodded to the squadron. "Razor Cat Squadron will then defend the Acclamator going down, having ferried the troops and LAATi's to the surface."

    "Any unexpected resistance?" A pilot spoke up, and Dox replied.

    "The local pirates are nominally aligned against the Republic, so the Seppies might have bought their services."

    Gilad's eyes cut to the clone. "But even with their input, the current Separatist deployment will still be overwhelmed. Their potential involvement is why I'm holding back all three Acclamators to start off with."

    "I'll be flying with you, Commander," chimed in the Cerean Jedi. "My Delta 7 may be a bit faster than your craft, though..."

    The pilots of Razor Cat Squadron bristled slightly.

    "Is that a challenge?" Aryan murmured with a soft snort, the words escaping his lips before he had a chance to tame them. His voice was barely audible out of respect for his superiors, but he knew the Jedi were more perceptible to such things. The boy had likely heard him, which was just as well; he had no use for overbearing arrogance.

    And apparently, neither did his squadmates.

    They understood what was about to happen; they knew Aryan’s quirks and what would ultimately provoke him. Many of them had been on the receiving end of his competitive edge. In this instance, he wasn’t about to stand down while an alleged ‘super-being’ bullied him with his boasting. Regardless of the severity of the impending mission, he had to prove himself.

    "How about a friendly wager?" Aryan whispered under his breath, leaning close in order to remain discreet. "We’ll see how well you match up to my Headhunter. The fastest fighter wins; bonus points for the most kills. The loser buys the entire unit a round of drinks the next time we’re on leave."

    A sly grin spread over his features as he raised his brow with anticipation. "Whaddya say? I’m sure your Master won’t mind…"

    The Cerean looked amused, aloof, even, and his Master didn't allow the quick glance his way to move him.

    "You're on. Kill count?"

    Aryan shrugged nonchalantly, a mischievous glint evident in his eye. "How about… the first to three? The pickings may be slim, so I don’t want to say anything too ambitious. We need to keep it fair."

    Gilad twitched his moustache. In any other circumstance, he'd criticize the two of them for this display in front of the command staff, but competition was good for morale and they were only droids...

    His eyes took in Dox as the two of them shared a similar thought; their eyes met. Once upon a time, we thought it was 'only clones'.

    Clearing his throat, Gilad spoke up. "As long as the Jedi Commander and Razor Cat keep escorting the gunships down, I've no issues with this. But when the transports are down, I want you both back up the well to escort my Accalamator down to secure the LZ."

    His eyes took in Aryan and Tap-Nar-Pal.

    "Are we understood?"

    The Cerean bowed his head, and the Jedi Master cleared his throat. "Commander Graul, please walk with me."

    "Yes, sir, of course," Aryan replied quickly, the rush of adrenaline accelerating his speech and prompting him to stand at attention.

    It was clear that his actions were not meant as a sign of disrespect, nevertheless, he still managed to inwardly rebuke himself for being so careless. He never intended for Pellaeon, the Clone, or the Jedi Master to overhear his private conversation with Tap. Their venture was more of a game; a way to distract themselves from the rigors of war. He knew Gilad likely understood that—which was why he essentially turned a blind eye—but it still placed him in a very awkward position, especially for someone with his role and responsibilities.

    Fortunately, they never afforded him a chance to try and explain his behavior. Before he could potentially make an even bigger fool of himself, the Jedi Master intervened and requested his presence.

    Aryan pursed his lips, his eyes reflecting his uncertainty as he glanced between Gilad and his squadmates. There was obviously some apprehension behind his tough exterior, but he ultimately fell in step beside the older human.

    "What can I do for you, Master?" he asked tentatively, studying the man out of his peripheral vision.

    Jedi Master Ronhar Kim waited until the door closed behind them, even as both Gilad and Tap-Nar-Pal looked after them, quizzically.

    "Did you know that I am one of the few Jedi Masters who frequents the Senate halls beyond the Council?"

    It was a rhetorical question, as he carried on.

    "My father was the Senator for Naboo before he was slain by assassins, and replaced by our now-Chancellor."

    This was a personal segue.

    "And as such, I have spent a great deal of time with the Chancellor, and his closest allies and friends, much to my chagrin sometimes, but as an exchange of perspectives, so that the Chancellor can have the Jedi view, and I, the mundane."

    He looked out of the corner of his eye as they walked.

    "So I do rather recognize Norin's son."

    Aryan inwardly tensed at the man’s statement, though he tried not to openly project his emotions. It was said the Jedi had the ability to perceive the thoughts and feelings of those around them. He considered it an invasive tactic to exert their will, and he did not want to give this man that sort of advantage.

    In addition, there was something about Kim's explanation regarding the Senate that made him feel uneasy. The man's claims were not in doubt, but he had a reason for divulging those details. It was almost like he was trying to intimidate him by mentioning his father.

    Did he intend to use that as leverage to ensure his cooperation?

    Or was it a… threat?

    "I’m aware of my father's routine," Aryan said mildly, attempting to engage the man in small talk. "I've seen him occasionally on the HoloNet when I've been able to catch the latest news cycle. He’s always right there, mingling with the Chancellor and his retinue. It probably makes him feel important."

    He finally raised his chin and met Master Kim’s gaze. "You may think he’d be interested in knowing my location, but with the company he keeps? Trust me, he’s not looking. He probably doesn’t even care."

    To emphasize his point, he gestured toward the name plaque pinned to his chest. "It’s not like I’m concealing my identity."

    Ronhar raised a hand. "You mistake my intention. I am not one to interfere in the private lives of Senators."

    "You are correct, that your father has not been asking for you as of late. Indeed, from my recollections he was more concerned with your rebellion than your whereabouts," the Jedi reflected absently. "However, my relationship with my father was very... estranged. His death caused a certain imbalance within me, and I would not wish that disquiet upon anyone."

    His eyes met Aryan’s. "Your secret is safe with me, Aryan Graul."

    A slight hesitation to his words, however, suggested he had something on his mind.

    Merely the loss of his father, or more?

    There was a chime above them; a warning that they had half an hour to reversion. Aryan would have plenty to do, but if he wished to pursue this discussion, he'd have to make that decision now, or leave it to after the battle…

    The alarm drew Aryan’s attention, and while he glanced up to regard the signal, he did not immediately jump to take action. He found himself far too intrigued by Master Kim’s commentary, especially now that he knew the man had no intentions of turning him over to his father. That much was true.

    Nevertheless, it was an odd conversation to have prior to a military campaign. His words were halting. He could detect a hint of trepidation beneath the strong veneer, almost as if the man was on the cusp of some personal revelation.

    Did Aryan dare to indulge him?

    "I, uh… thank you," the young man replied slowly, offering a faint smile to express his gratitude. "I’m also sorry to hear about your father."

    He then shifted his weight, clearly building up the courage to ask the question that plagued his mind. Ultimately, his curiosity got the better of him.

    "Was there… anything else, sir?"

    Ronhar nodded slightly. "You do not entirely trust me," he reasoned, "but I accept that."

    A thought occurred to him. "I could share something with you, a proposal which will shortly be public knowledge, on my return to Coruscant. Only three people in the entire galaxy know of it."

    He eyed a door to an adjoining room, next to the hangar. He didn't want to have this discussion in the corridor.

    He paused at the entrance. "Perhaps I merely wish to unburden myself. I have not even spoken to Master Yoda. My friend, he asked I keep it to just us three, but you and I cannot go into battle together with a worry between us."

    Aryan pressed his lips into a thin line, but he exhibited no other signs of emotion. While it made sense to clear the air before battle, he was still suspicious of the Jedi’s motives. Wasn’t it against their moral code to deal in subterfuge? The fact that he had neglected to inform Master Yoda of his 'plans' was particularly telling. That should’ve served as a warning for him to refuse the offer and walk away…

    And yet, Aryan couldn’t resist. He was too afraid of being left behind and failing to fulfill his duty. If this was an opportunity for him to advance, he had to take the risk.

    Exhaling softly, he regarded Kim a final time before stepping into the private suite. "I just hope your friend isn’t the vindictive sort," he murmured under his breath, mindful of the potential implications. "Especially since you’re about to betray his trust by sharing his grand secret."

    He trailed off and narrowed his eyes. "Which begs the question, why do you consider me worthy of your confidence? A simple fighter pilot. That’s highly unusual, don’t you think?"

    "The Force tells me to trust you, and that I will need that trust to survive the coming years," uncertainty crossed his brow. "And you are, after all, connected to a Senator."

    He raised a finger to hush Aryan. "Count Dooku is a Sith Lord, an ancient enemy of the Jedi Order," he started. "They ravaged the galaxy for millennia and were thought dead. On Geonosis, he told Master Kenobi that the Senate was under the control of his master, Darth Sidious." He grimaced. "And the only way to ensure this is not the case is to test the M-Cells of all Senators." The midichlorians. "Starting with the Chancellor himself, so that no Senator can refuse."

    His gaze sharpened. "My Padawan and I, we put this to the Chancellor before we headed here. He has asked us to keep it between us three, while he debates the ramifications." Kim looked concerned. "Fundamentally, accusing a Senator of being the mastermind of the entire Clone Wars, it is a massive political undertaking."

    He met Aryan's eyes. "Do you understand why it is now so important that we triumph here at Merson, so I may return to the capital to speak to the Chancellor - to Master Yoda himself?"

    Aryan remained silent for several seconds, his lips pressed tightly together as he processed everything the Jedi Master had revealed to him. He wasn’t the most knowledgeable when it came to the Jedi’s history and traditions, but he knew enough to recognize the Sith as their archenemies. They were practitioners of the dark arts and extremely dangerous. The fact that they had somehow gained access to the upper echelons of the Republic without anyone knowing was absurd.

    "You may have just made me a target," he murmured quietly, his mind automatically envisioning the worst-case scenario. "By telling me, I mean. I’m now culpable for whatever happens. What you’re saying, it could be construed as—"

    He stopped himself from completing his sentence. Coup attempt. It sounded just as ludicrous as the man’s claim that the Sith had secretly infiltrated the Senate.

    But was it truly that ridiculous? After everything he had witnessed from his father over the years? Corruption and intrigue were inherent parts of the political realm. It was a wonder a scandal hadn’t come to light before this. For a fleeting moment, he even questioned his father’s involvement—if the Jedi were to test him, would he come out clean?

    The thought caused Aryan to visibly shudder, though he quickly pushed it aside. He already knew his father was a monster; he didn’t need the results of a rigorous assessment to provide confirmation.

    "If it’s so important, why not go directly to Master Yoda now?" he dared to push ahead, speaking from his heart. "I wouldn’t wait until after the battle… it may be too late by then."

    "Because it cannot be trusted to comms," Master Kim said, lips firm. "The Chancellor's support is needed to root this Sith Lord out of the Senate. Between myself, my Padawan, the Chancellor, and now you, it is a secret only four in the entire galaxy know. This Darth Sidious will not know of the plan until the Chancellor announces it." He was sure of this.

    "Merson does not have the forces to defeat three Acclamators and escorts," Kim said, not quite as confident but sure nonetheless. "Captain Pellaeon is a very competent commander, and your squadron is here." He looked briefly apologetic. "I was merely troubled, and the Force is with you, after all -"

    There was a rumble - alarms went off. Pellaeon's voice cut across the tannoy. "We've reverted at the system's edge, one light year out. Final approach in fifteen minutes. All pilots to craft, all troopers to their Larti's; the assault on Merson commences once we've rounded the outermost planet."

    Ronhar went to go. "May the Force be with you."

    He was in a hurry, and the battle was about to begin.

    Aryan worked his jaw in silence, unable to move as the klaxons announced their re-entry. It was as if someone had cemented his feet to the deckplates; his muscles simply failed to cooperate. And so, he could only watch as Master Kim retreated down the corridor, his cloak swirling behind him in his haste.

    Even after he disappeared from sight, the Jedi’s confession continued to weigh heavily on the young man's mind. On one hand, he considered it an honor that Kim had confided in him on something so sensitive. It generated confidence and trust, and Aryan would always cherish that.

    However, it could also prove dangerous. If the Chancellor found Master Kim insubordinate in his duties—or if an investigation uncovered no evidence of a Sith Lord—Aryan could suffer the consequences alongside the delirious Jedi. He couldn’t afford that kind of reprimand, not when he was on the cusp of achieving his dreams.

    And yet, something urged him forward.

    Was it what the man had said about the Force?

    Aryan shook his head and finally willed his feet to move. "May the Force be with you," he replied under his breath, still distracted by his thoughts.

    TAG: @Sinrebirth; @Lady_Belligerent
  13. Sinrebirth

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

    Nov 15, 2004
  14. Sinrebirth

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

    Nov 15, 2004
    IC: Norin Graul

    The door was merely open a crack when his backhand caught young Sybelle across the cheek, with surprise and sharp force.

    Norin was home.

    A voice, loud; his wife stood in the greenery, causing a clatter as she pushed over the table.

    "Snubbing Garm's wife, my dear, how could you be so brazen?"

    His booted toe found Sybelle's rib-cage.

    "I've had to come back from the capital after all this time to check on you."

    Another kick, this time to her head.

    He stalked past. "And I'm about to miss the Chancellor's speech. I'd say clean up the mess, but you'll want to hear about this."

    Norin stepped over her and headed to the sitting room, snatching the remote from the shelf where it lived and activating the feed, Sybelle's position on the floor meaning she could see just what Norin meant, even if she - and Aashaiya - had no idea why.


    TAG: @Lady_Belligerent (combo)
  15. Sinrebirth

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

    Nov 15, 2004
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2023
    HanSolo29 and greyjedi125 like this.
  16. Sinrebirth

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

    Nov 15, 2004
    IC: Gilad Pellaeon
    The Rout of Merson

    They were outnumbered, heavily.

    All he could do now was make sure they didn't lose anymore than they already had.

    "Razor Cat Squadron, any and all survivors, I need you to cover me," Gilad spoke a death sentence, but he had three Acclamator's to save... and a handful of starfighters left to screen him.

    The droids had been hiding in the asteroids, and matters had gone worse since then.

    Aryan was now commanding half a squadron, and of course the Jedi Padawan was gone too... and even passive scans showed the clone army beneath was being overwhelmed.

    "Sir, the hyperspace rings are gone, we can't jump without the fleet -"

    "Five Trade Federation battleships confirmed, a fifth just appeared on the horizon -"

    "Who the hell sends this many ships for us-"

    Aryan had a bad situation, and a worse one to survive.

    TAG: @HanSolo29 (combo)
  17. Lady_Belligerent

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

    Jan 29, 2008
    A very intense combo with @Sinrebirth. Thank you for challenging me!

    IC: Sybelle
    Graul Estate, Nubia

    Nothing had truly prepared Sybelle for just how cruel Norin Graul could be.

    His attack was swift… and humiliating. The fury in his strike was shocking, and Sybelle’s hands flew to protect her face should he swing again. He was speaking, but she wasn’t listening, his angry words were background noise competing for her attention.

    In shock, she mutely rolled to her side thinking that she should be doing something. But what? Defend! That was it, and she was tucking her knees up when he kicked her in the side. Only a gasp escaped her lips, she stubbornly would not allow a tear or whimper to give him the satisfaction of hurting her.

    Her breathing was shallow panting, he’s fractured at least a rib… and she’d be surprised if he hadn’t broken her jaw.

    “Is that the best you can do?” She said under her breath just before he kicked her head. Sybelle’s vision dimmed around the edges, and she was on the edge of passing out when she heard footsteps as he walked away.

    Should she run? The door was near enough, but she couldn’t leave Ashaiya alone with him. He might take out his anger on her, and Sybelle couldn’t risk that.

    The elder Graul turned on the holonet, but Sybelle’s eyes were closed. Her muscles relaxing to the floor for a moment of blissful respite from the assault. Her last thoughts were that passing out would leave her vulnerable… She had to fight back until Ashaiya’s son returned. At that time they would all escape Norin Graul together.

    Norin pretended as if he didn't hear her, but his nostrils flared as if enflamed, and he actively suppressed that she'd cut into his bravado. "Clean yourself up, and shut the door, Ashaiya." His wife stepped up to Sybelle, and looked like she was going to bolt.

    Not even looking at her, Norin sat heavily in the armchair. "I have news of Aryan, don't you want to hear before you go with your Chiss schutta?"

    Sybelle could ignore his petty name calling, she was tough enough to brush that off, but she was worried for Ashaiya. She moved quickly to place herself between the older woman and Mr. Graul.

    Ashaiya had been the only person to care for Sybelle, besides her parents, and she wasn’t about to allow this man to hurt her.

    “She’s anxious to hear of her son,” Sybelle said boldly, “you should tell her now to ease her worry.”

    Ashaiya looked pained. "What do you mean, Norin?"

    He didn't even look at them, indicated the HoloNet feed.

    "He's there."

    On-screen was a tremendous battle.


    Sybelle swallowed hard as she studied the horrible scenes. She gently took Ashaiya’s arm and said “I’m sure he’s okay. We have to remain positive that your son survives.”

    Sybelle’s voice wavered slightly due to the throbbing of her aching jaw. The lingering coppery tang of blood only fueled her anger at the evil man. She eyed him thinking that she wouldn’t put it past him to lie to his wife about their son’s status.

    “I’m sure you know if he lives,” Sybelle spoke up, “put your wife’s mind at ease, sir. Tell her that her son is alive.”

    "He might be, he might not be," Norin said, harshly.

    The embedded reporter droid was continuing to record, a feed that the Republic HoloNews would ordinarily have censored but clearly it was running live and doing that was bad press too. Nonetheless, someone would be arrested for letting this air, no doubt of that.

    "I heard the news as I touched down. He's been serving, a fighter pilot." A lazy gesture. "And now he's there, at the Battle of Merson, a battle we are very likely to lose." His tone was humorless. "We have lost."

    He held out a datapad. "I found him only today, I wanted to come home and make sure you understood that I do care about us all, and my protection is all that's keeping this family afloat while you agitate Lady Bel Iblis with tea parties and gossip, flaunting the child of two war criminals as a pet." He threw the datapad, which landed on the floor face-up, skittering across the marble towards Sybelle's foot as Ashaiya paled.

    Sybelle quickly picked up the datapad and tucked it under her arm, “no one snubbed or agitated that old hag. She was the one that was rude and gossiping,” Sybelle said firmly. “You should get your facts straight before you accuse us,” her voice got louder as she felt emboldened. “That woman wasn’t being respectful to your wife,” Sybelle was on a roll now, “you should be indignant over that!” She tilted her head back to look at Mr. Graul, and waited to protect Ashaiya if he tried to harm her.

    "My wife is used to it," Norin said, and Ashaiya began to cry, turning away. "She needs your strength to even get out of bed, pet."

    "So how about you clean up all this mess -"

    He kicked over the coffee table in the lounge to accentuate his point.

    "Rather than risk my ire."

    Sybelle’s eyes narrowed at being called a pet… again. She slipped the datapad into Ashaiya’s arms, and turned to face Mr, Graul.

    There would be no reasoning with him, but damned if she’d let him think he could get away with being so hateful.

    “I’m not afraid of your ire,” she said in a low, dark voice, “you are a vile and pathetic little man to abuse your wife this way. Do not touch her again or you’ll be sorry.”

    She bent down to pick up the table he had kicked over.

    "Come, come," Norin said, glowering. "Take a seat, wife of mine."

    Ashaiya meekly sat besides him, refusing to look at Sybelle.

    "Might you make us some tea, please?"

    "Pet," Norin said.

    "Please," Ashaiya said, about as firm as she could. A hand whipped out, and Ashaiya was face-down in the debris of the floor, narrowly missing the table.

    Norin looked at Sybelle as if to say. Well?

    Harming Ashaiya was Sybelle’s breaking point. She reacted, only thinking of protecting her benefactor, her friend. Eyes narrowed at the vile man, Sybelle said, “NO, don’t ever touch her again!” She unleashed a burst of kinetic energy at Norin, with the intention of slamming him into the far wall.

    Then Sybelle went to her knees to see if Ashaiya was okay. “Can you stand, are you injured? We must leave, it’s no longer safe here.”

    Norin tumbled off his chair, backwards, wedging himself between the tipped furniture and the wall - and waved his legs in the air, almost comical in the instance.

    Ashaiya had a hand to her face, and looked at Sybelle, eyes streaming. "I can't go, not until I know where Aryan is -“

    Sybelle quickly looked around and retrieved the datapad Norin had tossed to them. “Look,” she indicated the datapad, “I believe what we need is on here.” Sybelle used her hand to gently wipe Ashaiya’s cheeks, “can you stand?” She urged the older woman to hurry, “we need to get far away from your husband.”

    She stole a glance at Norin, he would know that she had used the Force, and he’d called her parents war criminals. That sleemo would have her arrested! Sybelle’s heart was now racing, “please, Ashaiya, we need to run!” Sybelle leaned close and whispered,
    “he told us where Aryan is…”

    Tag: @HanSolo29, @Sinrebirth
    Sinrebirth and HanSolo29 like this.
  18. HanSolo29

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

    Apr 13, 2001
    OOC: The following is a very tense combo with Sinrebirth – thank you so much!!

    IC: Aryan Graul
    The Rout of Merson

    I want to go home

    It was the first lucid thought to cross Aryan’s mind since the battle began and things went horribly wrong. The irony wasn’t lost on him. He had spent most of his childhood dreaming of the stars and waiting for the day when he could leave his ruthless father behind. An opportunity had finally presented itself, much sooner than he had expected…

    … but now he wondered if he had made a grave mistake by enlisting before he could legally do so. Despite his enthusiasm to serve, he wasn’t prepared for the reality of war. No one could’ve predicted the disastrous rout that unfolded in the Merson system, not even Intel. It was a wonder the fleet was still intact.

    And yet…

    Maybe it wasn’t entirely surprising.

    Aryan had his own suspicions about the breakdown of events, especially after his clandestine meeting with Master Kim, who had been tragically killed alongside his Padawan in the ensuing chaos. The man had shared with him a disturbing truth about a greater evil that had infiltrated the Republic.

    Was it a mere coincidence that the Separatists had been waiting for them after such a revelation?

    He doubted it. They had presumably targeted Master Kim and Tap-Nar-Pal to prevent an impending investigation, indicating that the report was likely true.

    Of course, that would also mean—

    A perceptible chill ran down the length of his spine as he broke out into a cold sweat. What was the extent of the conspiracy? Were they aware of his involvement? If so, that didn’t bode well for his survival. It suddenly felt like he was under constant scrutiny. He knew that the killing blow could come at any moment.

    That thought hastened Aryan’s panicked state, his breathing coming in short, ragged gasps, amplified by the oxygen mask covering his nose and mouth. His vision also began to blur as the world beyond the cockpit canopy faded away into a kaleidoscope of colors and light. Even the voices of his fellow pilots, distant and indistinguishable, became a cacophonous crescendo that soon lost all meaning.

    He was alone.

    Drifting… drifting

    "Razor Cat Squadron, any and all survivors, I need you to cover me."

    Gilad Pellaeon’s voice broke through the dissonance, bringing clarity to the present chaos. For Aryan, his presence also provided an anchor on which he could pull himself back from the abyss. After everything the man had done for him, including granting a wayward kid the rare chance to prove himself, he owed him his life. Fleeing now would reduce him to a coward and betray everything Gilad stood for. He was too proud for that; he could not fail.

    Inhaling deeply to regain his composure, Aryan straightened his posture and clutched the control yoke between both hands. With a subtle shift, he aligned his fighter with the distant Acclamator-class assault ship.

    "Listen up, Razors," he called into the din, clenching his teeth to steady his nerves. "This is our moment. Captain Pellaeon needs assistance in keeping the Seps off his back while we make our retreat. Form up on me and stick with the Leveler."

    A hint of levity crept into his voice to bolster morale. "Just like flies on a bantha’s behind. Got it?"

    Half the Razors replied; the rest were dead.

    They had a job to do, after all.

    Fighters formed up, dodging listing asteroids, and picking out pin-prick detonations in the distance; droid fighters being clipped by turbolaser fire that was unable to target them directly. Pellaeon's voice chimed in. "We'll have a concussion missile firing sequence ready in five minutes. We just need that long."

    "Five minutes," grumbled Three.

    "Three hundred seconds," added Six.

    "May the bloody Force be with us," came Nine.

    The sensors couldn't even get a fix on the number of droid starfighters out there.

    A lot, in essence.

    As soon as they broke cover of the asteroid field, they'd be exposed.

    A cloud of droids seemed to form up, just outside of range of the Leveler's weapons, a jagged dagger of mass.

    "One, they're preparing a suicide charge," commed Eleven.

    "We don't have hyperdrives," reminded Ten. "We save the Leveler, or we stay here and die."

    "Confidence, much, eh?" That was Eleven, batting back.

    "Cut the chatter," sniped Five. "One? Orders?"

    Other droid starfighters were harrying the engines, and making runs at the bridge, being shot apart by an interweaving wall of defensive fire -

    Aryan gritted his teeth against the idle chatter; the situation was tense enough without a running commentary from his pilots. Then again, he supposed they needed the distraction in light of what was essentially a hopeless situation. He was certainly feeling the pressure, and he knew it would only get worse until the conflict reached its inevitable conclusion…

    … whatever that may hold for them in the end.

    Blinking back the sweat from his eyes, Aryan inhaled deeply and willed himself to focus. Despite their precarious position, his squadron needed him; they needed him to step up as their leader and provide them with direction.

    "Basic escort formation," he replied simply, his gaze fixated on the growing Acclamator outside of his viewport. "Cover her on all sides; do not break rank. They’re gonna come at us fast and hard, especially those suicide bombers, but we have our duty to protect the command ship."

    A wavering sigh escaped his lips, and he hesitated. "She’s also our best chance at survival, but uh… remember, we only need to hold them off for five minutes, and then we’re home free. Let’s go!"

    Steeling himself against the restraints, Aryan toggled the thrusters and punched the accelerator.

    "Basic escort -" spluttered Eleven.

    "I said cut the chatter," bit back Five, putting some durasteel into his voice. "Nine, get your Flight under control."

    Ten snorted.

    First Flight was down to two pilots; One and Three. Second Flight was down to Five and Six. Third Flight had Nine, Ten, and Eleven left.

    "Second Flight will cover port-side," Five continued. "Third, cover starboard. One, we'll leave you top-side."

    The Squadron line was silenced, and Three spoke up across First Flight comms, a fellow Corellian recruit. "Sir?"

    "Stay close to my wing," Aryan answered quickly, his eyes narrowing as the droid fighters drew ever closer. If he squinted hard enough, the battlefield blurred into a nebulous haze; everything disappeared except the vacuum of space. It made the danger seem negligible while projecting a sense of peace, even if it was under false pretenses. He needed that to cope.

    "We’ve done this plenty of times before, right?" he continued after a moment, his voice laced with conviction. Although, at this point, it was difficult to say who he was trying to convince—his squadmate or himself. "We run these drills all the time. It’s only five minutes… and then we’re gone."

    Even as he spoke, the first wave of fighters converged on their position, screaming past the cockpit canopy with reckless abandon.

    "Off to starboard! Look sharp!"

    With a sharp intake of breath, Aryan then angled the nose of his fighter in that direction and unleashed his first volley into the fray.

    Half a dozen droid starfighters erupted into detonations as laser fire pierced their fuel cells, and the Leveler began to turn toward the direction of support.

    Behind her, the other two Acclamators were taking more hits, but Leveler was angling itself to throw a spread of cover fire back their way; it was all that could be done.

    Pellaeon's voice came on the comms. "We've cleared the ECJ," he said, referencing the jamming the droids used to interfere with missile solutions. "Locks in-place, take evasive, fighters."

    The second later, though, two, three, four dozen concussion missiles spat from the Leveler's weapons and began to arc around, with more to come. A ripple of detonations began, shredding Three -

    Aryan heard himself cry out in jubilation, however, his elation quickly faded when one of the Leveler’s advanced missiles clipped his wingmate and reduced his fighter to slag. He watched in horror as the fiery debris pinwheeled past his cockpit and became lost in the evolving chaos.

    "Ah, kriff," he muttered under his breath before slamming his fist against the control console for emphasis. "KRIFF!"

    They had achieved their goal, but Razor Three had been unable to pull away in time to escape the rapidly expanding chain of detonations along the Leveler’s path. The ensuing fireball had engulfed his fighter, leaving Aryan alone and defenseless. He had punched the panel out of sheer frustration—but he also knew he had to maintain his composure if he wanted to survive this ordeal.

    Inhaling deeply, Aryan took a moment to clear his mind before turning toward the comm. "Captain, we’re dropping like flies out here," he relayed over the command channel, clamping down on his insecurities in an attempt to steady his voice. "We’re out of time; there’s nothing more we can do. I have visual confirmation of the payload. Requesting permission to come aboard, sir."

    Pellaeon didn't immediately reply.

    The droid fighters were thick and fast, and rapidly becoming detonations.

    Nine and Eleven vanished from the board.

    The Leveler was turning to maximize its missile coverage, dedicating most of its fire to the other two Acclamators.

    Five exploded; ramming a droid fighter on an evasive course.

    "Permission granted," Pellaeon finally said.

    No, the droids weren't going evasive; some droid controller had reasoned they couldn't stop the Republic escaping and was opting for suicide orders -

    Ten cried out. "Sir!"

    Relief flooded Aryan’s essence when Pellaeon’s voice filtered over the comm. It had felt like an eternity to receive authorization, but they finally had an escape route to carry them away from this madness. The only problem was reaching the hangar before the suicidal droids could annihilate them all.

    They had already lost Nine, Eleven, and Five to the chaos, reducing Razor Cat Squadron to four pilots. Aryan blamed himself for those losses, though there was no time to mourn their passing. Despite the odds, he had a duty to lead the survivors to safety. There was no way he could afford to fail, not when the lives of his companions and friends were on the line.

    "Steady, Ten!" he yelled over the open channel, perhaps a little harsher than he intended. He attributed that to his own fraying nerves. "Break for the Leveler! Get on board! Do you hear me?! Focus! We’re almost out of this!"

    As if to heed his own advice, Aryan clamped down on the control yoke and slammed it hard to port to avoid an incoming barrage of droid fighters. Once they cleared his immediate vicinity, he gunned the engines and accelerated toward the looming Acclamator.

    Ten made it into the hangar, missing a wing but that was from laser fire, not a suicide charge.

    The rest of the squadron, well, it didn't.

    The Leveler rumbled under the weight of impacts, physical and energy, and as Aryan crossed the divide between inside and outside, he would hear Pellaeon. "Jumping to hyperspace!"

    But his fighter was in mid-air, and it lurched into the side of the hangar -

    And he -

    Felt fire -

    Felt pain -

    And blacked out -

    TAG: @Sinrebirth; @Lady_Belligerent
  19. Sinrebirth

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

    Nov 15, 2004

    Aryan would come to to medics -

    "He's lost a lot of blood -"

    A droid.

    "That's what happens when he loses a leg in a crash -"

    A brittle voice. Gilad Pellaeon.

    "We can't reattach the limb -"

    "It's crushed -"

    "Sir, the Chancellor is wanting an update -"

    "The Leveler is being recalled to Coruscant -"

    "I've a Senator Graul on the line, demanding an update about his son -"

    "Son?" Pellaeon's concern.

    "We're being queried if the Jedi lost acted suspiciously before the mission launch, Republic Intelligence Director Isard is enquiring -"

    Black took Aryan again.


    Ashaiya avoided Sybelle.

    She was able to stay in the presence of Norin, as if a defeated pet.

    Her bruises had to heal, after all, she could hardly go outside and ruin his reputation.

    That'd put her children in jeopardy.

    That couldn't happen.

    Norin for his part didn't hit anyone again; whether his temper was allayed by Ashaiya, or he took Sybelle's warning seriously, who knew.

    "When he's here, I want to have her set up," Norin was saying.

    "But Norin, he's been injured, we can't -"

    "We will, Ashaiya, if he's a cripple he won't be able to provide for us, and we'll need him to marry well -"

    "What about his sibling?"

    "What about them?" Norin barked with laughter.

    There was a ring at the doorbell, which Sybelle would ordinarily be expected to answer.

    A hover-gurney, escorted by a medical droid, a man in trim Republic blue... and a clone trooper in red karma.

    A pair of blasters on his waist - and on the Republic officer's there was one too.

    On the gurney, awoken by his memory of that fluting doorbell.

    Aryan Graul.

    Their first meeting.

    TAG: @Lady_Belligerent, @HanSolo29 (combo)
  20. HanSolo29

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

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

    IC: Sybelle, Aryan Graul, Norin Graul, and Armand Isard
    The Graul Estate, Nubia

    Being Chiss didn’t mean bruising wouldn’t show, unfortunately, it was quite the opposite. Currently, the side of Sybelle’s face was swollen with splotches of sickly green and purple. She wasn’t vain, but the damage to her face made her limit who saw her. It was humiliating that she’d been battered, and she made herself a promise that she would never allow herself to be beaten again. She would fight back.

    Sybelle hadn’t really smiled since Norin Graul had beat her, and now Ashaiya avoided her. They didn’t spend time in the gardens or have their tea together, and for the first time since she’d been there, she thought about leaving.

    The approach of visitors had Sybelle slipping quietly downstairs, she waited until the door chimed before she opened it and stepped aside to allow the group to enter.

    Her expression remained stoic as the gurney holding the young man passed her, he appeared conscious but was gravely injured. She began a mental list of what needed to be done to care for his emotional and physical injuries.

    Once she was left standing alone she realized how much her heart ached for Ashaiya and her son, her benefactor loved her son as much as Sybelle remembered her parents had loved her. Now Sybelle cried for Aryan, even though she’d never met him, she thought of him as her loved one too.

    She’d suffered loss and was determined they would not lose Aryan.

    A melodious jingle reached Aryan Graul’s ears. It was a prolonged note with a light, airy quality similar to a flute or windpipe. Although he was unable to identify the tune, it was unique enough to transport him back to a specific place and time. It was a sound he recognized from his childhood; the familiar trill of the front door chime.

    Was he home…?

    No, he couldn’t be. They wouldn’t subject him to that torture; not after everything he’d been through.

    The crash.

    The pain.

    His leg…

    … it was gone.

    The medics explained that his injuries were too extensive; they had been unable to save it.

    So, they amputated it.

    But they wouldn’t reduce him to a cripple… would they? The latest advances in medical technology, especially in the Core Systems, made it easy for them to craft him a prosthetic leg that was virtually indistinguishable from his biological one.

    So, why was he here?

    Why hadn’t they kept him at the hospital until he had fully recovered and regained his mobility?


    Was this truly home?


    With a sharp gasp, Aryan’s eyes fluttered open to wander aimlessly around the room. There was an ethereal beauty to the scene; a dream-like landscape with soft edges and a perpetual haze that lined the fringes of his awareness. A pair of shadows flanked his position, obstructing his peripheral vision. They might’ve been two distinct individuals, but it was difficult to tell. At this point, he didn’t care to examine them further. They simply faded away into this strange, distorted reality.

    However, he wasn't entirely convinced that it was a dream until he saw the thin, delicate features of the young woman who opened the door. She had wide, bright eyes that shone with an odd scarlet hue, a slender nose, and full lips. And yet, her most distinguishing feature was undoubtedly the tone of her skin. It was a pale blue, which accentuated her otherworldly allure.


    He knew his father would never allow an alien to serve in his household, and quite frankly, he had his own doubts about the legitimacy of non-humans.

    And so, he began to wonder—was he staring at an angel?

    Or merely a figment of his imagination?

    Parting his lips wordlessly, Aryan reached over the side of the gurney with splayed fingers, desperate to touch her.

    The officer with the white running through his black hair snorted and slapped down the hand. "Increase the sedation, 11-4D."

    "Yes, Director Isard."

    He stepped forward to do so -

    Norin boomed a laugh. "Armand! You come bearing a gift for me? In person?"

    "Your son, delivered as requested, in the state you specified." The man looked at Sybelle. "And who is this?"

    "My wife's pet, a charity case." Norin dismissed Sybelle as he stepped up, daring her to contradict him.

    Sybelle wanted to speak up and defend herself to the vile man, but she knew better than to do it in front of the stranger Norin had greeted. If she made a scene, Norin might take out his anger on his injured son. It was hard to ignore his insult, but she did.

    She stayed close enough that she could reach over and touch Aryan if he reached for her again while she watched the droid increase the drug to keep Aryan sedated. With a gentle nudge of the Force, the clamp on the line that the sedation would flow through closed, and then she compensated by opening the tubing with hydrating fluids. Aryan needed nutrition and fluids so that his mind would be clear.

    After a quick peek to see who was watching her, she silently projected her thoughts into Aryan’s mind, Sybelle was aware that he might not hear her, but she had to try. Her mom and dad had often done it, and momma said it wasn’t an easy skill to learn. She said you need a very special connection with the other person, and they didn't have that, but Sybelle cared deeply for Ashaiya, so maybe that would help.

    Pretend you’re sleeping, I blocked the drug so you can stay awake. Her words were a soft echo in her own mind. She didn’t want to startle him, so she kept her tone soothing. I can help you.

    She hoped he would at least get an impression of what she needed him to do because he needed to be awake so they could talk. There was something in the way the man had said to Norin, Your son, delivered as requested, in the state you specified.

    The state he specified? That statement worried Sybelle. They would need to find out what Norin was up to, and she was afraid Ashaiya might be unable to help.

    "I will show you where the patient’s room is," Sybelle said to the medic.

    Aryan did not react to the Director’s harsh treatment; it was difficult to say whether he even noticed when the man slapped his hand away. From his perspective, it merely fell back to his side of its own volition. Like everything else in this dreamscape, his body felt tangential, floating aimlessly through the endless void—almost as if it wasn't truly a part of this reality.

    The voices followed that same perception. Although faint and muted by the illusive landscape, they were still discernible to some extent. He heard the conversation between his father and the shadowy figure to his left, the former causing his muscles to tense involuntarily. Panic rose in his chest, though he was unable to convince his vocal cords to verbally express his dismay. Despite the surreal nature of their existence, he knew his father would not approve of the situation. He would berate and physically punish him for disobeying his orders; for running off to fight in the war. He would declare his injury comeuppance for his defiance, but it wouldn’t end there.

    The young man inwardly shuddered to think of the consequences, but as he began to squirm under the man’s scrutiny, another voice broke through the dissonance—a female voice. Though he did not recognize the source, she brought clarity to the chaos that clouded his awareness. Her soothing tones resonated deeply in his mind, mingling with his thoughts, as she instructed him to feign sleep. She wanted to help him.

    She wanted to—


    Aryan’s eyes fluttered, his jaw clenching tightly as he angled his chin toward the 'angel'. Was she speaking to him?

    'How?' he pushed back, unaware that he had answered her. It was more of an instinctive response; something he couldn’t quite explain.

    But then their eyes met, and he didn’t require further clarification. He could see the reassurance and determination reflected in her gaze, which gave him the confidence to trust her.

    Exhaling softly, Aryan allowed his body to relax and slowly closed his eyes to emulate the gradual effects of the sedative.


    11-4D looked at Sybelle, blinked its photoreceptors. "Of course, m'lady."

    Norin grinned at the droid. "Keep an eye on her, she's a biter."

    Armand raised an eyebrow and Norin waved away his concern. "It's not important. So, why are you here in person?"

    The Director of Republic Intelligence glowered at the woman as she walked away Aryan and the droid. Within earshot of them, but expecting Aryan was sedated, and Sybelle was nothing but an exotic pet, he said.

    "Your son has been contaminated by the Jedi curse I am afraid."

    "Oh no," Norin said, falsetto. "Compassion? Celibacy?"

    Armand ignored the man's humour. "Treason."

    Sybelle and 11-4D had moved from the entry into the corridor that led to the stairs, but she stopped in her tracks overhearing Norin’s friend accuse Aryan of treason.

    She turned to the droid and said quietly, "11-4D, please go to the kitchen and discuss the young Mr. Graul’s nutrition needs with the cook. I’m concerned over how pale he is, and I believe we must work on getting his strength back."

    Waiting a moment until they were alone, she moved the gurney until they were in a small alcove as close to where Norin and Isard were talking. Her hand touched Aryan’s shoulder and she leaned close to whisper, "I want to listen to what your father is saying," she swallowed and looked at his face to see if he would be angered by her comment. "I do not trust him, and you could be in danger."

    She touched her finger to her lips and listened.

    "Treason?" Norin snorted.

    11-4D had already sauntered out.

    "What does my boy have to do with such a notion."

    Isard was succinct. "He may have very well known the truth."



    "Oh," Norin said, concerned. "How?"

    "The Jedi in-question, they suspected as much."

    "Which is why -"

    "Which is why," Armand said, firmly.

    The brief exchange between his father and the sycophantic fool confirmed his fears. Master Kim’s theory had reached the upper echelons of the government and a conspiracy was now underfoot. It pained him to recognize the truth—the truth that the Chancellor had fallen under the influence of a powerful sorcerer, resulting in a devious plan to silence any dissent. Why else would they target them?

    Why else…?

    In that terrible moment, Aryan realized he had proof that Master Kim and his padawan, Tap-Nar-Pal, had not died by mere circumstance. Someone had silenced them... just as they had tried to do with him. It was no coincidence that this lackey had personally escorted him home and had stepped into his home to speak discreetly with his crooked father. They intended to finish the job, which meant—

    Dad was involved.

    He knew all along.

    Suddenly, the blue girl’s hospitality no longer mattered, nor did his own ailing mind, still hazy as he slowly recovered from the debilitating effects of the sedative. He needed to remove himself from this situation, but he didn’t know where to turn. He wasn’t sure who he could trust; his mother had yet to emerge from her seclusion and this… alien was a complete stranger. To compound things further, his injury prevented him from taking matters into his own hands. He couldn’t walk, much less escape, without physical assistance.

    He was stuck.

    Exhaling shakily, Aryan sought the blue girl’s gaze, his eyes almost pleading before sharply turning away.

    A chill shook Sybelle’s small body, Ashaiya’s son was in danger, and she wouldn’t turn her back on him.

    She reached over to cover his hand with hers. For a moment she stared at the stark difference in size, and then the coloring of their skin. Aryan was very pale, which was likely from blood loss.

    "Please, let me help you," she whispered, "let’s get you where I can look over your injuries and where we can speak freely." Her eyes sought his, and she poured calmness into the Force, hoping to soothe the anxiety she could feel. "See the bruising on my face?" She asked Aryan. "He hates me too, I stood between your parents to protect Ashaiya from his abuse." She checked to be sure the corridor was still clear.

    "I know I’m a stranger to you, but I love your mother, and she helped me. We should get out of the corridor before we are discovered."

    "So," said Norin, carefully.

    "So," replied Armand.

    "Is he being left in my care to resolve the issue, or do I need to send him away like my other child."

    "You were sloppy last time," Armand chided. "You're lucky they're still alive."

    "You know as well as I that he needs me for the Epitaph Project -"

    "- but not at the expense of the Grand Design."

    Norin scoffed. "I'm not the one who keeps the five statues in my office so they're always nearby. I'm as important as any other piece of the puzzle." His tone grew murderous. "The same is not so for you."

    "Is that what you think, Senator?"

    "Director, that is what I know. I will deal with my son, and my house."

    "See that you do," Armand huffed. There was movement, they were coming back to the corridor -

    Aryan wanted more time.

    The mysterious girl with blue skin—was she a Chiss?—intrigued him. There was no context for why she was here, though he couldn’t dismiss her humility and kindness. She wanted to help him, and while he still struggled to fully comprehend her motivations, he deduced it had to do with her relationship with his mother. How had she come to know Mom? And what had she done to antagonize his father?

    So many questions swirled inside his head, but again, there was no time to address them. The conversation between his father and the Director escalated as they continued to discuss topics that many considered taboo—some even bordered on heresy. They also debated his own fate, which sent a chill down the length of his spine.

    Then they paused, followed by a rustling of garments, which signified their approach.

    At that moment, Aryan began to panic.

    Turning wide eyes toward his benefactor, he reached for her once more, his lack of coordination causing his hand to stray to the left before finally finding purchase on the edge of her smock. He clenched the fabric between his fingers and tried to pull her close.

    "We… we need to go," he spoke gruffly, his voice sounding more harsh than he intended. "G–Get me… out of here… they’re coming."

    His head suddenly crashed back on the pillow as intense pain radiated from the amputation site. It took his breath away and exhausted his strength. When the girl had denied him the sedative, that probably included pain relievers as well. It wasn't her fault she hadn't known, but now it forced him to adopt a strong demeanor to get them through this.

    Clenching his teeth, Aryan tugged on her hem more firmly, encouraging her to move.

    She nodded but knew it was too late to get up the stairs without being seen. Her hand slipped into Aryan’s, and she quickly moved him away from where Isard and Norin had been speaking. Sybelle hurried them through a doorway into the servant's passage.

    "We will be safe here," Sybelle leaned down and whispered. "There are unused dorms for servants down here, and your father wouldn’t lower himself to enter this area." It wasn’t becoming to speak ill of people, but Norin Graul didn’t deserve her respect. The main thing was that they were safe for now.

    Once she moved Aryan inside a vacant room, Sybelle took a moment to get a better idea of his injuries. Her breath caught at the sight of his leg, had a surgeon operated on him, or a bloody butcher? It was hard not to be furious over his condition, but she would find help without Aryan’s wicked father knowing.

    Sybelle bit at her lower lip, trying to think of how she could ease his pain, this was beyond any wounds she had ever tended. If only her mother was there, she would know what to do, the methods to share her life force with someone terribly wounded. "I wish you were here, momma. I don’t know why, but I must help him."

    She had to be relaxed or nothing would work, Sybelle rolled her shoulders and stretched the tension out of her neck. Breathe she reminded herself, yes that was something she remembered. Her mother would be calm and taking deep slow breaths.

    "Aryan, share your pain with me," Sybelle said softly while she placed both of her hands on what was left of his leg. It was something she’d seen her mother do, but Sybelle wasn’t completely sure of the finer points… like how to actually do it.

    "Allow me to take on your pain," her voice was fainter, yet firm enough for it to be clear that he had no choice in this.

    Inside her mind she could see the injuries, through her fingertips she soothed the severed nerves and urged them to move into the remaining soft tissue. Any decent surgeon would’ve taken steps to protect the nerves so that the patient wouldn’t be in so much pain. This fool had not bothered to tie the nerves off and reposition into the remaining healthy tissue.

    Through her fingers, she pulled burning waves of pain from her patient. Sybelle gasped when the initial burst of pain hit her. It must be working! Her pleas became more urgent, she was aware that she couldn’t outright heal the wounds, but she could ease his pain.

    Items were added to a mental list she had to support Aryan’s care and rehabilitation. Bone Broth! She’d have the cook make him soups with fresh vegetables and herbs to help reduce inflammation.

    After several moments she looked up at Aryan and said, "I will get pain medications for you once we are sure Norin is back in his office. We will also get you settled into your own bed, and maybe you’d like some fresh clothing." Her fingertips brushed locks of hair back from his forehead and asked the question that was looming heavy over them, "Did you understand what your father and that man were saying?"

    He flinched against the light touch of her fingers upon his brow. In reality, it was more of an instinctive reaction to protect himself from liability than anything directly related to his physical injuries. This strange girl had already extracted something from him—had seemingly reached inside his mind to provide relief while isolating his pain. Or had she removed his pain? It was difficult to comprehend what had occurred. It was as if she had performed some kind of ritual to influence the natural course of events.

    Was that a Jedi trait? Had she used the Force on him?

    Whatever it was, it evoked a sense of loathing inside his heart, stimulated by fear. While he appreciated her efforts in comforting him, it still troubled him that this girl—this… alien could so easily penetrate his deepest thoughts without discretion. Was she capable of extricating his secret in the same way she had eased his pain? The repercussions of such a careless act could be substantial—not only for him, but for her as well. He had a reason for being selective about who he shared the information with.

    If his father discovered that she had learned the truth, he would never stop harassing her, especially if she had already fallen under his scrutiny.

    But where did that leave him?

    And why did he care? Particularly when the Republic’s alleged negligence had resulted in his injury? Despite her being a complete stranger, the girl was the only one to show him compassion since waking from his medically-induced nightmare.

    Aryan fully opened his eyes and met her crimson gaze, staring into their depths for the first time. "Yes," he finally uttered in response to her question, slowly inclining his head to confirm his knowledge of the situation. "But… you don’t need to concern yourself about that. It’s beyond you."

    There was an implication that he considered her nothing more than a servant—but it was also a means to protect her.

    "But t–thank you," he continued with an awkward smile. "Even if… I–I don’t know what the hell you did."

    Sybelle turned away from the gurney to silently berate herself. She’d acted too familiar, and now Ashaiya’s son didn’t trust her.

    "It was… nothing," she mumbled in response to Aryan’s comment. "I will see if the corridor is safe now," she said awkwardly and stepped to the door. It would be best to get him to his room and let the medical droid take over. She needed to give him some space before she boldly asked him what the kriff he meant by things being beyond her. It was extremely condescending and she was struggling not to tell him off.

    "No one is around," she said, coming back to his side, "I’ll get you to your room, Master Graul." She cringed at how much she did sound like a servant, but then, wasn’t she? Sybelle dipped a quick curtsy and said, "I apologize if I overstepped, sir. Shall I escort you to your chambers now?" She asked, and she was careful not to make eye contact.

    The change in her demeanor was palpable, bringing a slight frown to his features. "I’ve insulted you," Aryan stated flatly, noting the melodramatic flourish of her tone. It was inconsistent with the tender and empathetic girl who had initially rushed to his side to nurture him. In fact, it bothered him—perhaps more than he cared to admit—that she had devolved into such an impertinent lackey rather than being sincere with him.

    He knew he had likely contributed to her behavior, but she had to also understand the circumstances. The galaxy had become a far more dangerous place, and he only wanted to—

    … to what?

    Was it possible he truly did care about her well-being?

    Aryan inwardly cursed, his expression sobering. Maybe he had been too harsh. She was a servant of his father’s household, though that was no reason to disrespect her, especially after she had risked her life to help him. He owed her that much.

    With an audible sigh, he reached to take her hand in a gesture of peace. "I know you did a lot, and you probably did your best. I’m just—" He trailed off with a derisive scoff, his gaze straying toward the blanket and what remained of his right leg. "It’ll… take time to adjust… if I ever reach that point."

    There was a prolonged pause, his eyes going distant for a brief moment before he continued in a more conversational tone. "You… served Mom while I was gone, right? I—uh, kriff… what’s your name?"

    Her hand twitched, and the only reason she didn’t jerk it back was that she didn’t know if he would tell his father that she’d used the Force on him.

    "I’m Sybelle," she answered and then blurted out, "Your mother saved me, and she took care of me. I chose to help out, she doesn’t consider me a servant." With a sigh, she added, "Your father considers me to be your mother’s pet, or filth, vermin, and any random insult he is feeling at the time."

    She gently pulled her hand back and tilted her chin upward.

    Ashaiya had described Aryan as a much different person, now Sybelle wondered if she had fallen for a mother’s biased opinions, or had war changed Aryan Graul? Her loyalty to his mother had been why she’d reacted so strongly to his suffering, yet all she’d managed to do was to make a fool of herself. The best for all involved would be to get away from this man, and find Ashaiya. She was starting to worry that Norin had done something to her, or threatened her to stay away from her son. His mother can be the one to worry over her son’s care, and Sybelle could go tend the gardens.

    "I need to get you upstairs to your room, sir," Sybelle said quietly. "Your medical droid will be waiting and it will have the pain medications you likely want."

    In the distance, the two men's voices became muffled.

    Indeed, one vanished, and Norin bellowed into the house. "Woman!"

    "Where is my son?"

    Norin's wife replied, soothingly. "The medical droid and Sybelle took him upstairs. He's unconscious, we should let him rest."

    There was a loud clap noise and the sound of a tumbling person.

    "You do not tell me what to do!" Norin's voice snarled. "You will let me know the moment he is awake. I will speak to him then, alone."

    "What - what will you be doing while he sleeps?" There was fear in her voice - and pain.

    "I'll be preparing to send him away too."

    "Oh, Norin, not to there -"

    "Shut up, woman."

    A slammed door, and silence.

    Aryan recoiled into that silence, his expression hardening under the duress of his mother’s pain. He knew that Dad had struck her; he didn’t have to personally witness the altercation to understand the outcome. It always ended that way, no matter who was on the receiving end of his father’s wrath. Based on Sybelle’s admission, she had also fallen victim to his ire—however, she had likely suffered more frequently as a result of her social status and race. It was no secret that Dad had a strong aversion toward non-humans. To Aryan’s shame, particularly after the recent exchange, he realized that perhaps he had begun to adhere to that same toxic mindset as well…

    Pursing his lips into a thin line, he made an effort to lift his head from the pillow, hoping to get a better view of Sybelle’s face. Her long, dark hair fell about her shoulders, partially concealing her features, though he was still able to detect the bruising on her face. It was a sallow color, contrasting with the cool tones of her flesh. Undoubtedly, it was his father who harmed her, which led him to clench his fist around the blanket's edge. A part of him felt obligated to apologize for his harsh words, a sentiment born of desperation, fear, and empathy. She wasn’t the only one in danger, after all.

    Dad had mentioned that terrible place again. Despite not knowing where or what it was, he recognized it as the same place his father had sent his older sister when he was a child. He never saw her after that, not even for visits on birthdays or holidays. She had simply… vanished from the family.

    Since then, his father often alluded to that mysterious place as a means to scare him into submission when he misbehaved. And yet, Aryan never perceived it as a serious threat… until now.

    When he rebelled and left home to join the war, his father viewed that as an act of insubordination, one he could not easily atone for. The secret he had learned about the Sith and the unfortunate consequence of his injury only compounded the situation further. There was no turning back at this point; he had no other choice.

    "No," Aryan stated simply, his voice fraught with tension. "You… you can’t take me upstairs. I’m… uh, I’m sorry for what I—" He winced slightly to mask his clumsy attempt at an apology. "Look, you need to listen to me, Sybelle. My dad is… b–beyond reason. He has a–a chaotic mind, and he won’t stop until he achieves his goals, even if—even if he leaves a trail of destruction in his wake. It’s an—obsession. You, me… Mom… he doesn’t care. We’re all… expendable."

    The mounting pain made it harder for him to speak as he angled his chin toward the door. "Find… Mom—you need to… get us out of here." His expression then turned wistful. "As for… what you did—that’s our… little secret."

    Her eyes closed and she breathed out slowly in relief. Aryan had terrified Sybelle when he was so put off by her that he might tell Norin she’d used the Force.

    "I’m aware of what your father is," she turned to face him directly, "I’ve been on the receiving end of his anger and prejudice, I’ve stood between him and Ashaiya to protect her. Only this time… I wasn’t there to do it," Sybelle’s voice had been soft as a whisper. She felt tears welling in her eyes, so she looked away to avoid Aryan seeing.

    He had apologized, but she would proceed carefully and not be overly familiar. A servant wouldn’t touch their employer without permission, that was something she would keep in mind. If he had mistaken her as one, then others probably think of her that way too. She would do anything to take care of Aryan’s kind and gentle mother.

    "If you are serious, I can leave you here briefly while I get Ashaiya," Sybelle said. "I don’t trust him though, so I’ll leave you with this," she slid a vibroblade from her pocket and placed it next to Aryan’s hand on the bedding. "Use it, if he comes in here. Don’t wait to see what he wants, use the blade, and make him yell. I’ll hear it and run," she said.

    This moment had only been a fantasy, one that she and Ashaiya had discussed many times. Could they make it happen?

    Now that Aryan was here they had their chance, but they had to act quickly before Norin took him away.

    TAG: @Lady_Belligerent; @Sinrebirth
  21. Sinrebirth

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

    Nov 15, 2004
    Quickly didn't materialize.

    It took time to fit a limb to an amputee.

    It took time for recovery of damaged and wasted muscles.

    Ashaiya avoided the discussion.

    Norin prevented it, all the while remaining by his son's bedside.

    Sybelle and Aryan were kept separated by him.

    Correspondence arrived, via hard mail, in very-easy-to-open-and-close envelopes.

    From a place called Bedlam.

    An institute there.

    A mental institute.

    The only times they could meet up, clandestinely, was when 11-4D helped them to.

    There were visits, too.

    Armand came to check on Aryan's recovery.

    The Vice Chancellor, Mas Amedda, once called by, but didn't actually see Aryan.

    They were not checking on him.

    They were checking on Norin.

    Norin flew into rages after their visits, and had reduced the sitting room to nothing but wreckage.

    There were no more political visitors.

    Eventually, the visits tailed off.

    Aryan's recovery was almost completed.

    Weeks had however become months.

    Then today happened.

    TAG: @HanSolo29, @Lady_Belligerent
    Last edited: May 30, 2023
    HanSolo29 likes this.
  22. Sinrebirth

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

    Nov 15, 2004
    IC: Norin Graul

    It was today.

    The day where he had to decide.

    And by he, he meant him.

    He was coming here.

    Norin had clucked over them each, encouraged his wife and Sybelle to dress up, insisted that Aryan push himself to wear a suit.

    Because he was coming.

    There had been a security sweep earlier that day, red-and-white armoured Stormtroopers.

    Then, crimson armoured Senate Guards.

    Whatever it was, it was hot on the heels of the assassination of Senator Viento on Coruscant, and the near-death of former Chancellor Valorum, too.

    Politicians were being targeted, so it seemed logical that the personal home of Senator Graul would be checked over.

    And yet, Norin's behavior was more it had ever been.

    He cared about appearance.

    Subtle deliveries of make-up to conceal bruises appeared, even in Sybelle's shade of blue...

    And then.

    The door-chime rang.

    "Go," Norin hissed. He'd had droid servants rebuild the front-room at considerable expense, as well, and he shuffled them to the rear of the property while he directed Sybelle to take the door.

    It was opening of its own accord, notwithstanding the lock.

    A crack of light, but the door did not push fully open.

    "Might I come in?"

    It was a kindly voice.

    A soft voice.

    A whispering voice, almost within their minds as much as their ears.


    Like a snake.


    TAG: @Lady_Belligerent, @HanSolo29 (combo)
    Last edited: May 30, 2023
  23. HanSolo29

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

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

    IC: Sybelle Tann, Aryan Graul, and Chancellor Palpatine
    The Graul Estate, Nubia

    Sybelle squirmed in the uncomfortable dress that Norin had insisted she wear. It had been an hours-long standoff to get her to wear it, Ashaiya had shown up and finally convinced her, then the older woman deftly applied the makeup to cover her bruises. She knew it was because the older woman was trying to protect her from Norin’s wrath, but Sybelle couldn’t help but feel betrayed.

    Giving in to that vile man made her feel physically ill, which led her to wonder what Norin would do if she threw up on his precious guest.

    Joining the family to receive the guest, Sybelle glared at Norin so that she wouldn’t look at Aryan. She’d seen him in her peripheral vision, and he looked quite handsome in the suit he had been told to wear.

    She moved to stand beside Ashaiya, even though she was angry, Sybelle would protect her benefactor from any physical abuse. There was an awkward moment when she parted her lips to speak, but she was struck by an ominous feeling of dread. It was so overwhelmingly powerful and all Sybelle could think to do was to shrink herself inward, like when she withdrew under the furniture as a child.

    The door opened, and his voice made her skin crawl as she inched closer to Aryan’s mother.

    As Norin herded them to the foyer to meet his distinguished guest, Aryan couldn’t shake the analogy of nerfs being led to slaughter. This was the culmination of the torture they had endured over the past week to ensure that everything was perfect, from their wardrobe to the tapestries in the main dining room. He had never seen his father so distraught over a visitor before. It bordered on obsessive, which was his first clue that something was terribly wrong.

    Nevertheless, Aryan obeyed his father’s directives without argument or debate—as he had done for the past six months of his recovery. Norin had been strict about managing his physical therapy routine once a proper prosthetic had been fitted for him. It was grueling work, and Aryan found himself wanting to lash out at the man on several occasions, especially since he had isolated him from the rest of the household during his sessions, though it brought results.

    While he still had to utilize the assistance of a cane to maintain his balance, he now stood under his own power beside the others... and waited.

    For a fleeting moment, he dared to cast a sideways glance at Sybelle, whom he had not seen for several weeks due to his father’s regiment. She was still very much a mystery to him, though that didn’t prevent him from appreciating her presence. The simple sheath dress complimented her lithe figure, and he quickly decided that it was a refreshing change from her usual scrappy look.

    However, before he could begin to reflect on those intrusive thoughts, Aryan felt an icy chill traverse the length of his spine, prompting him to involuntarily shiver. He instinctively angled his chin toward the door, even as a sense of dread settled in the pit of his stomach.

    His father’s guest had arrived.

    Chancellor Palpatine.

    A primal urge to run swept over Aryan—and yet, he found himself rooted in place. The man’s compelling essence had him trapped somewhere between intense fear and awe. He wasn’t sure which one had ultimately rendered him inert, but it likely didn’t matter. He was dead either way. The Chancellor had come to settle old debts; to silence him for knowing the truth. Why else would he make a personal trip to Nubia?

    With a shuddering breath, Aryan could only stare as the kindly old man stepped forth.


    The eyes were not as soft as the expression, and they briefly flittered between Sybelle and Aryan, settling on the latter.

    "Calm yourself," Palpatine said, kindly. Norin and a pair of guards were hovering, and he turned his voice deeper. "Leave us."

    They went to go, and Norin glared at Sybelle and Ashaiya. "Not the Pantoran girl," Palpatine said, lightly, and Norin visibly blanched. "I wish for Aryan to be at ease," Palpatine explained. "He has gone through a lot for the Republic, and you are putting him on edge." His voice was chiding, like an old man. "It is easy to see that these two are of a similar age, and I hedge they are on the same wavelength, so to speak."

    There was a whirring as the droid, 11-4D, went to leave too. "Oh, you should stay, too," Palpatine said lightly. "In case young Aryan needs you."

    "Of course, sir," he intoned.

    "Very polite." His eyes turned to Norin, who was hesitating. "As I say."

    "Yes, Chancellor." Norin bowed his head and tried to avoid looking at Aryan and Sybelle.

    When the door clicked shut, the old man looked back at them. "Please, take a seat. I cannot stand for long myself." He seemed inexcusably old for a moment, completely exhausted. "The war takes its toll on us all," he said sadly.

    The old man didn’t fool her… he terrified her. She was trembling as they went to sit, and then was ready to panic when it wasn’t clear if the man thought of her as staff, maybe she shouldn’t sit. So far she had avoided looking at Aryan, but she now snuck a quick glance. He looked much calmer than she felt, so that was good.

    She wanted to reassure her friend that things would be okay, but all she could do was brush her arm against him and quickly squeeze his hand. Sybelle then hesitated a moment before she went to stand just behind Aryan, keeping her gaze on the floor. All she could do was hope that the Chancellor would ignore her.

    They would have a bigger challenge when the chancellor left because Norin would be livid enough that she was told to stay while he was ordered to leave, if his expression was any indication, he would try to beat her. Sybelle wasn’t afraid for herself as much as she was afraid for what he was doing to Ashaiya, surely he wouldn’t risk hitting her with the Chancellor in the house… still, she didn’t trust him.

    The situation became more tense when Palpatine dismissed his mother, father, and the security retinue from the room. In spite of the old man’s attempts to ease Aryan’s wary mind, his actions had the opposite effect. It seemed to confirm his suspicions that the Chancellor had come here personally to eliminate any direct threats to his sovereignty. In this case, he wanted to ensure that Aryan never shared the knowledge that a Sith Lord had infiltrated the Senate.

    And yet…

    Was he being paranoid?

    Had months of isolation and therapy altered his perceptions? It certainly wouldn’t surprise him with the cocktail of powerful drugs the medical droid had administered for pain management. Everything prior to this week was a perpetual blur. He couldn’t recall the last time he had been completely sober, which was no coincidence.

    But now that he was lucid and had time to consider the circumstances, hadn’t Master Kim been trying to inform the Chancellor? Not accuse him? It was possible the old man had no awareness of the dangers that lurked beneath the surface.

    If that was the case—

    A gentle touch upon his arm interrupted Aryan’s musings. Parting his lips in mild confusion, he glanced over to find Sybelle at his side, his ears immediately growing warm as he noted their entwined hands. He stared at them for a moment, struggling to ponder how they had reached this point—or what it meant—before lifting his chin to meet her gaze.

    Whatever happened between them, it helped to bolster his confidence. As Sybelle released his hand and retreated behind him, Aryan found the strength to shuffle forward and settle down in the empty seat.

    "Um, I had plenty of visitors over the last few months," Aryan began tentatively, making a point to maintain a conversational tone. "But… nothing quite like this."

    He laughed lightly, clearly trying to alleviate his remaining anxiety.

    "Truly, it’s an honor, Your Excellency." He nodded to show his respect. "But, uh… this is usually my father’s domain, so I’m curious what I can do for you."

    The Chancellor smiled softly. "Actually," he said, with a slight tremble in his voice. The old man turned to Sybelle. "I was really looking to speak to you, to be honest." His eyes took her eye. "I wanted to speak to you about your parents, if possible."

    His eyes slid back to Aryan. "I of course was upset to hear about your injury in the line of duty."

    "The Battle of Merson was a terrible defeat." Palpatine sagged in his chair. "I lost one of my friends in that battle." His tone grew hard. "For as long as I live, I will not see Captain Pellaeon rise in rank. His negligence was almost treacherous. Only the memory of Ronhar Kim stays my hand. Master Kim would not have wanted me to execute a man for him."

    Palpatine placed a hand on his face and somehow looked even more aged. "I am so sorry, Aryan."

    He didn’t ignore her.

    Plus, she had not realized how much touching Aryan would affect her. The small act had been to reassure him, but it had sparked feelings inside of her that Sybelle didn’t understand. The sound of his voice now caused a strange stirring, it was a confusing feeling of wanting something, but she had no idea what it was that she wanted.

    Sybelle was even more confused when the Chancellor said he wanted to speak to her about her parents. She didn’t bother to hide her surprise over his statement, "My parents, Chancellor?" Her voice was steady but soft and respectful.

    "I’m sorry, but I know very little as they died when I was quite young," she answered. "All my memories are childhood moments that could have been my own dreams," she said, now sad and looking downcast again.

    Thankfully she didn’t need to pretend, the subject of them made her sad. Then she had a thought and asked, "Did you know them, Chancellor?"

    Palpatine nodded sadly, turning his head slowly. "I knew of them. It was rather tragic what happened to your parents, my dear. Caught up in someone else’s war, cut down by the Jedi."

    "Did you know, you’re not a Pantoran, Sybelle," he said, almost conversationally. "Your parents are from the Unknown Regions, from an isolated territory known as the Ascendancy. The Chiss Ascendancy." The man was softly spoken, almost whispering. "Your parents were exiled from the Ascendancy by their leaders, for a forbidden relationship. The Chiss value their Force users, as I understand, and it is very rare for a female to retain the Force beyond their youth. Even rarer still is a male Force user."

    Palpatine was being very gentle. "But your mother became involved with what the Jedi believe to be a very dangerous man. Count Dooku. He shaped her into a weapon. His apprentice."

    His eyes took in Aryan, to keep him involved. "Do either of you know what a Sith Lord is?"

    Aryan glanced up from where he had folded his hands on the table, bemused that the Chancellor had directed the conversation back to him. In reality, he found the information about Sybelle’s past far more interesting. She hadn’t said much about her family prior to this meeting, so it was somewhat gratifying to finally solve the mystery and put things into context. He was particularly curious about her heritage—what did Palpatine call it? The Ascendancy? The Chiss? He made a mental note to further research both entities in his free time.

    For the moment, Aryan only stared at the old man, his jaw muscles clenched tightly as he struggled to maintain his composure. It struck him as cruel that the Chancellor would criticize Pellaeon’s performance at Merson, especially since he knew Gilad had done everything in his power to preserve the fleet. He hadn’t been responsible for Master Kim’s death; someone had deliberately targeted him for knowing too much. He had discovered the truth about the Sith Lord.

    Was it a coincidence for Palpatine to inquire about the Sith at this juncture? Was there a connection between Master Kim’s death, the conspiracy inside the Senate, and Sybelle’s parents?

    He parted his lips and exhaled softly, no longer able to withhold his secret. It was his duty to fulfill Master Kim’s mission and inform the Chancellor. He was certain of that now. If there was a link between all of these strange occurrences, surely Palpatine would know what to do.

    "I’ve heard of the Sith," Aryan replied evenly, straightening his posture as if it would give his words more credence. "Master Kim told me about them before he died. It was a warning. He said that they were here… inside the Republic. He wanted to tell you, to send a messenger or something—but then they killed him. I, uhh… I know I should’ve mentioned it sooner, but—"

    He pursed his lips and diverted his gaze, mentally preparing himself for the inevitable reprimand.

    Sybelle was aware that she wasn’t Pantoran, but she showed no outward reaction. Her memories of her parents were still vivid, and admitting that she was aware of their activities and death could jeopardize Ashaiya. She found the details of what happened to Sybelle’s parents and told her how they died.

    Thankfully Aryan answered the old guy’s question because she couldn’t have spoken. She clenched her hands together to hide how they shook, what purpose did it serve for this creepy man to tell Aryan where she was from?

    He would hate her… not as much as his nasty father, but she was sure he would probably tell her to stay away from him.

    This was terrible.

    She felt foolish standing there stoic when the old dude had just told her how her parents were outcasts. How should she react?

    No answer was necessary. The words running through her mind were enough.

    "Your parents were exiled from the Ascendancy by their leaders, for a forbidden relationship."

    Tears streamed down her cheeks. He’d made it sound like they were criminals, but she knew they were only doing what they felt was right. Still, the notion that they chose to fight, and to risk everything rather than take her and her sister to safety…

    "But your mother became involved with what the Jedi believe to be a very dangerous man. Count Dooku. He shaped her into a weapon. His apprentice."

    Her mother was no fool, in her heart she knew Sev’rance Tann would’ve known they were Jedi and that they were trouble. Damn them all! She had no fondness for the Jedi, they destroyed her family.

    Anguish threatened to overwhelm her from the years of keeping it locked up inside. There was only one time that she’d really grieved, and that was with Ashaiya in the garden… surely that had been enough?

    It would be disrespectful, but she had to sit down.

    Without looking at Aryan, or the guest, she murmured, "Forgive me," and stumbled to a chair. Sybelle covered her face and wilted into the chair.

    Her heartbreak wasn’t because the Chancellor knew her family, it was because he told Aryan… and why did she care so much about Aryan hating her?

    The Chancellor was actually completely silent for the moment, tilted his head to Aryan. "My boy, your friend needs you more than I do your apology. I would hug her myself, but I know not Chiss ways." He indicated with his hand. "She needs you for the moment."

    He was so terribly gentle. "Should I go, my dear?"

    That was the extent of Palpatine’s response; no reprimand came.

    For a long moment, Aryan merely stared at the Chancellor, studying his worn and furrowed features. There was no hint of malice or ill intent. All he saw was a kindly old man who had expressed concern for his companion’s wellbeing. Of course, he didn’t know Sybelle all too well, but there was no denying her distressed state.

    Was she… crying?

    Oh, gods.

    Aryan looked stricken as he ran a hand over his face. He had no idea how to console the girl and ease her concerns. He wasn’t exactly the nurturing sort. What did he know about that? The most he could do was remove her from the source of her anxiety, which was seemingly Palpatine himself.

    But was that even… proper?

    Could he rebuff the Chancellor?

    He did provide an opening—

    Drawing himself up, Aryan began to rise from the chair, but in his awkwardness, his thigh bumped into the side of the table and dislodged his cane. As it toppled over, he instinctively lunged to catch it, but he ultimately failed in his efforts. Instead, he accidentally grabbed Sybelle’s wrist, causing the cane to clatter to the ground with a metallic crash.

    Aryan winced at the sound and quickly removed his hand from her personal space to avoid further embarrassment. He also didn’t want to startle her, but it was probably too late for that. Nevertheless, he forced himself to meet her gaze before he sheepishly turned back to address the Chancellor.

    "Um, I’m sorry, Your Excellency," he murmured quietly, his eyes shifting briefly to Sybelle once more. "But if you don’t mind, I think we’ll take that reprieve."

    Sybelle flinched when Aryan grabbed her wrist, and then all too quickly he dropped it.

    Ashaiya had spoken to her about hormones and what she would experience. She had devoured the reading materials that her benefactor provided and researched more. What she was feeling was normal, only it was difficult to keep control at moments… like now.

    She had never expected the Chancellor to come in and know so much about her, and then to share it all with Aryan. It was the way he spoke, it was as if she was beneath them.

    It was clear to her by his actions that Aryan was disgusted to even touch her.

    "No… please don’t leave, sir," Sybelle spoke up. He couldn’t leave! Norin would lose his mind if he heard Sybelle had made the Chancellor leave the room.

    She quickly wiped her face with bare hands and forced herself to be calm. "I sincerely apologize for the discomfort I might have caused you both," she said quietly and glanced down at her clasped hands in her lap.

    The discipline was in her, but the creepy Chancellor had broken through her facade.

    Palpatine watched the interplay between the two of them with soft but sharp eyes. "I will only do as asked, my children."

    He regarded them warmly. "You are a testament to your friendship, to your suffering here in this house." He took a gentle hand to each of theirs', squeezed them to reassure them. "I can read between the lines, do not fret, you have not imperiled your father. I cannot free you from this prison, but you can emancipate yourselves, remember, when you are old enough."

    He paused. "I have myself suspicions about the Sith Lord's identity. I asked Master Ronhar Kim to keep it to himself, but clearly he did not, for his task force was intercepted and he and his Padawan killed, and now I fear for my life." Palpatine pursed his lips, twisted them. "That being said, I am concerned the Jedi are attempting to fabricate an enemy to justify a coup attempt." His words were very honest, but the politically astute Aryan would understand the logic. "Indeed, Count Dooku was a Jedi, so there is a suggestion, a very whispered one, that the Jedi have crafted the Clone Wars themselves." He was actively wringing his hands, clearly upset.

    "The Sith are the sworn enemies of the Jedi," Palpatine explained. "They do not arrest Sith, they kill them." He sounded sad. "Which is why your mother died, without trial, without opportunity to repent or become a contributing member of society when she was out of Dooku's evil grasp. The Jedi need only accuse a Sith, and they will strike him down."

    He sounded so forlorn. "So I am at an impasse, and the only people I can trust absolutely are in this room because you know the truth."

    Palpatine shook his head. "Oh, to create a world where parents could not wound their children so, where orphans need not be made, where war is not manufactured to satisfy the Jedi and their morality, a philosophy not even grounded in the basic needs and wants of people." He gently but firmly brought their hands together, looking into their eyes. "Each other."

    Aryan’s mind was a swirl of emotion, and it certainly didn’t help when the Chancellor forcibly brought his hand together with Sybelle’s. He instinctively squeezed and tightened his grip—what else was he supposed to do?—but it still felt awkward, especially in light of her earlier rejection. He had tried to comfort her by dismissing Palpatine, even at the risk of his father’s wrath, but she had refused. Instead, she had demanded that the man stay and continue to regale them with his wistful musings.

    Of course, he wasn’t going to lie; he found the man’s insight into the alleged Sith Lord quite fascinating. In particular, his speculation about the Jedi’s role in the war and the events that led to Master Kim’s death was intriguing. Had the Jedi fabricated the story to accomplish what the Chancellor implied? Who was the enemy?

    "Are you suggesting the Jedi struck down Master Kim to facilitate a lie?" Aryan asked after a short pause, perhaps with far more naivety than he would’ve preferred. Again, he blamed that on his proximity to Sybelle. She gave him mixed signals, and he wasn't entirely sure how to interpret them.

    As if remembering that she was beside him, he shifted in his chair and glanced at her out of his peripheral vision. Surprisingly, he did not release her hand.

    Before he could stop to truly ponder his strange behavior, he cleared his throat and carried on. "I’m sorry, Your Excellency, I’m not sure what you expect us to do? Master Kim seemed genuinely upset. I don’t think he was misleading us about a Sith Lord. It didn’t feel like—"

    Aryan caught himself before revealing too much. The Chancellor would consider him foolish if he discovered that he had based his reasoning solely on intuition; a gut feeling that he couldn’t quite explain.

    "I, uh…" He sighed and rubbed awkwardly at the back of his neck with his free hand. "I guess what I’m trying to say is that you need proof if you intend to expose anyone."

    The gentle increase of pressure on her hand sent a trickle of warmth that slowly progressed up Sybelle’s arm, it was a very pleasant feeling that spread throughout her body. It was like a poem she once read that mentioned a woman feeling a floral bouquet blossoming in her stomach… and below.

    Sybelle tried to remember every detail from the conversation Ashaiya had with her about sex, feelings, and the changes in her body. The warm sensations were normal, that is something she recalled, so everything was okay… it’s okay. Ashaiya had been sort of vague on what sex felt like, but Sybelle was pretty sure this warm feeling had something to do with it.

    She glanced down and stared at their clasped hands, that’s when Sybelle decided that she definitely liked how her hand felt tucked into Aryan’s. This discovery made her wonder if he had experienced the same feelings as she had. It was something she wanted to share with him, so Sybelle gently squeezed his hand, mimicking what he had done to her. Her face felt warm from being so bold, and she secretly hoped that he would squeeze back. She wanted to feel that exotic warmth again.

    It occurred to Sybelle that she’d been staring, so she glanced over at the Chancellor and then at Aryan. She hoped they hadn’t been watching her since the men had been talking about a subject that she’d completely missed out on.

    "Exactly so, young Aryan." He tapped his chin. "We need proof before we expose the Jedi traitor. Whomever Count Dooku is working with in the Order, or even the Senate, we must walk cautiously."

    "It may even be your father," Palpatine said lightly. "Do you appreciate that? Will you… keep me informed about him?"

    He indicated Sybelle and smiled lightly at her colouration. "Your relationship is key to the future of the Republic and the Chiss. You are a complicated but unlikely first contact, but nonetheless important." Palpatine was completely docile, harmless even. He was so genuine.

    There was a light rap at the door. He turned slightly. "Can I rely upon you to let me know if you discover anything about this conspiracy? When you are both older, I will be looking to replace Norin in the Senate, and perhaps even the Chiss will need a Senator." A warm smile. "Wouldn’t that be amazing? You two travelling the galaxy to exotic locales, bringing peace and affluence to all you touch. Making a galaxy where there are no more orphans and abusive people taking advantage of others…"

    Aryan sat in silence for a moment, clearly stunned. He hadn't expected the Chancellor to elaborate on the future, specifically a future where he would step into his father’s shoes and assume the role of Senator. It never occurred to him to pursue such a goal, especially since his most vivid childhood dream was to travel among the stars, and yet he had to admit that it held a certain appeal…

    … if only to spite his old man.

    That would prove beneficial if there was any truth to Palpatine’s claim about his father’s involvement in the Jedi conspiracy. At the very least, it was a contributing factor to his turbulent emotions.

    However, nothing compared to the effect Sybelle had over him.

    Amid the Chancellor’s discourse, she tightened her grip on his hand, eliciting a rush of adrenaline that caused his body to involuntarily shudder—or rather, it felt as if it should’ve been obvious to anyone with a keen eye. The way his stomach lurched and appeared to leap into his throat wasn’t normal; he had never experienced that sensation before. It frightened him.

    Perhaps that’s why he suddenly spoke, his voice pitched and wavering. "I, uh… can—yeah!" He issued a soft scoff and winced. "I…I… can keep watch over my dad. Now that I’m home, he rarely permits me to leave his sight. I have his undivided attention, so it should be relatively easy to spot any—"

    His eyes shifted toward Sybelle as he inhaled sharply.


    Sybelle picked up on Aryan’s anxiety and instinctively used her mind to wrap him in a calming embrace. It startled her at first because she had never really done that, but she thought it worked. Her mother used to do the exact same thing when Sybelle was worried about something.

    Worried was exactly how she felt when the Chancellor suggested that Aryan could be a Senator, Sybelle knew it would take him away and the notion that they could travel together was absurd. Norin, traitor or not, would never allow it.

    To top things off, the Chancellor calling her a ‘complicated but unlikely first contact’, didn’t make any sense. Sybelle wondered how he could call her complicated, the Chancellor didn’t even know her. She opened her mouth to speak, trying to ask what he meant, but the knock at the door overshadowed her opportunity.

    Absent-mindedly Sybelle’s fingers stroked the firm hand that grasped hers. She was thinking that maybe they could meet later and discuss everything.

    Palpatine took Aryan's hand in his. "Thank you, my boy."

    He stood, slowly, bone joints popping loudly. "Oh my. Lady Sybelle, might I ask you to escort me to the front door? I think I've sat down too long."

    Reluctantly, Sybelle slid her hand out of Aryan’s clasp, her fingers pulsed and tingled. She slowly flexed her hand and savored the sensations. It was something new and invigorating. Deep inside of her, a switch had flipped, and it had sparked curiosity and a mysterious… longing.

    Sybelle remembered the Chancellor was waiting on her. She suddenly stood and
    curtsied smartly.

    "Yes, Chancellor. It is my honor to escort you, sir," she said with her head bowed.

    Internally she groaned, he was going to give Norin Graul another reason to hate her… and he would likely beat her, again.

    Her touch left a lingering impression in the palm of his hand, similar to the odd tingle that afflicts a limb when it falls asleep. Pins and needles progressed from his fingers to his wrist and then up the length of his arm. Aryan instinctively gripped his hand to stop its progress, the sensation momentarily distracting him from what was going on around him.

    By the time he realized that the Chancellor had asked Sybelle to escort him out, they were already halfway to the door.

    "Um… ehh!" Aryan stammered in a misguided attempt to stagger to his feet. In his haste, he neglected to properly utilize his cane, resulting in an awkward display that left him feeling foolish as he limped forward to join them. In truth, he had no idea what had compelled him to act. It was more of an innate response. Pure impulse.

    And it was too late to turn back now.

    "I, uh—"

    He inhaled deeply to calm his nerves and tried again.

    "Do you mind if I accompany you?"

    Palpatine looked back, pausing. "Of course not."

    "I don't think I can support you though." He eyed Sybelle. "I gather your mother was a Force user. Might you be able to help your young friend?" His gaze was rather penetrating in that moment; calculating.

    Sybelle looked up at the Chancellor’s face, his gaze… it was hypnotic. She pursed her trembling lips and slowly nodded.

    At that moment she couldn’t resist him. He had a hold on Sybelle that compelled her to answer honestly.

    "Yes, sir," she whispered faintly.

    The Chancellor was putting her into an uncomfortable position, and his creepy expression was similar to a hungry loth cat when he saw his dish filled with food.

    How could she assist Aryan without touching him… again? It felt like the Chancellor was purposely embarrassing Sybelle. Her heart was racing at the thought of touching him again, but it would be much more pleasant without an old man leering at them.

    With a small sigh, Sybelle quickly moved to Aryan’s side. She hesitantly linked her arm with his and said, "You may lean on me if it helps." She was much smaller in stature, so she prepared herself to keep Aryan from stumbling.

    Aryan faltered in midstep, his gaze drifting wildly between the Chancellor and Sybelle. He gaped at the old man’s suggestion, seemingly appalled at the prospect of him requiring any kind of physical assistance. It was embarrassing to submit to his vulnerabilities, particularly when he had struggled all of his life to step out from under his father’s shadow. He wanted to maintain some semblance of dignity.

    However, when Sybelle slipped her arm through his, he suddenly became conflicted. He wasn’t opposed to her touch.

    Was he even beginning to enjoy it?


    He clamped down on that thought and thrust it from his mind, reinforcing his resolve.

    "I’m fine," Aryan managed after a moment of fumbling, straightening his posture in an attempt to appear more confident. "I can do this on my own. All of that physical therapy has to pay off sometime, right?"

    A light scoff escaped his lips as he disengaged from Sybelle’s grip—but not before seeking her hand and giving it a final squeeze.

    Sybelle swallowed a gasp when Aryan made it clear he did not want her assistance, but he soothed the sting out of his action by squeezing her hand.

    Without realizing it, she touched that hand to her cheek and closed her eyes for a second.

    "Your progress in physical therapy has been nothing short of phenomenal, Master Aryan," Sybelle said softly, "or that’s what Mrs. Graul says."

    She was always hesitant about how to address him around everyone except Ashaiya, she had made it clear that Sybelle didn’t need to address them so formally when they were alone. She gave Aryan some space and absently caressed the hand he squeezed.

    The Chancellor led them off, amused. Sybelle had avoided his insinuation.

    Did she deny her Force heritage? And what of Aryan Graul and his very curious presence in the Force? Would either be dark side adepts to use in the future? Inquisitor candidates, or something else?

    For the moment, Palpatine simply settled on their connection. He would end it as need be. When they were older, when the Empire was ready, fully gestated, and ready to emerge from the cocoon of the Republic. Soon.

    "I look forward to seeing your careers with great interest. Do let me know if Senator Graul acts in a way that requires my input."

    A slight smile.

    "We must save the Republic from the Jedi and Sith."

    Any further tension Aryan felt over Sybelle’s formal behavior quickly vanished when Palpatine ushered them forward. There was a certain grace to his tone, almost like a grandfather speaking to a small child to alleviate his fears. It was persuasive… mesmerizing… yet it put him at ease.

    With an audible sigh, the young man’s shoulders relaxed as he shuffled forward, his fingertips dangling uncomfortably close to Sybelle’s hand. If she moved a certain way, they would touch—

    Aryan shook his head to divert his thoughts and forced himself to focus on the Chancellor’s statement. "Of course, Your Excellency," he murmured quietly. "I won’t let you down—and thank you."

    The Chancellor’s comment about their careers was ominous and made Sybelle tremble anew. All she could do was to follow along with Aryan in hopes Palpatine would just leave, and then she could try and slip away before Norin Graul tried to hit her.

    Sybelle’s mother always told her to make herself ‘small’ when she was afraid or threatened, and that’s what she did now without even realizing it.

    TAG: @Lady_Belligerent; @Sinrebirth
  24. Sinrebirth

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

    Nov 15, 2004
    Palpatine left.

    Norin seethed.

    But he had been warned, and nothing more could befall Aryan Graul.

    He was a media darling of sorts, for news spread of the survivor from the Battle of Merson.

    Occasionally Norin trotted him out to the crowd, and begrudgingly at that.

    Ashaiya was not touched by Norin, for he dare not have any fallout.

    Palpatine had effectively protected all of them from him in one fell swoop.

    Norin did indeed put into place enough political resistance to Pellaeon being
    ever promoted.

    That effort would prevent Pellaeon from rising above Captain for more than thirty years.

    Sybelle was kept out of the limelight, indeed some lengths were made to allude to a Pantoran member of the family.

    Palpatine managed to contact Aryan and Sybelle off and on, by way of the medical droid he sent to check up on them.

    Bedlam was believed to be where his sibling was sent by Norin. But it could have been an institute on Obroa-Skai, Sacorria, or even Nouane. Merely disentangling the Coruscanti Asylum network took months; Palpatine remarked that he could have very easily hidden someone in that system and nobody would ever find them.

    He earmarked prison reform for his post-war initiatives.

    Time Passed.

    Eventually, Sybelle and Aryan grew closer.


    Closer still.

    Intimately so.


    Almost two years since the Battle of Merson.

    Today was the
    morning after.

    22 months after the Battle of Geonosis.
  25. Sinrebirth

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

    Nov 15, 2004