Raze nodded at the suggestions of making camp. He turned to relay the same orders to one of the pureblood commanders. He had studied ancient sith extensively, but it was something else entirely to actually use it in practice. The Sith Lord temporarily gazed off into the distance, watching the chanting of the Massassi that were far more alive than they had been in years likely.
He didn’t initially follow Malicia, his thoughts on setting up outposts in case the King returned. However, when she stopped to address him, he slowly turned to regard her. He saw the look in her eyes and they betrayed perhaps more than she would have liked. Raze’s helmet was as cryptic as usual, though the face beneath it was generally the same.
He took slow steps towards her, coming close to where his frame towered over hers. The armor made him even more imposing, the visor and mechanized voice projecting a cool detachment. The Sith Lord came within arm’s distance from Malicia, visor gazing down to where she would be able to see her own burning gaze on his helmet. She would see exactly the faintest traces of what she was betraying and allowing him to see.
“And what if I don’t have self control?” The mechanized voice rang out, the words lingering for a moment. His tone, as ever, was unapologetic and direct. He didn’t move for a second or two, letting her fully feel the frosty chill that usually accompanied him when he was Raze.
After what felt like agonizing moments, he finally stepped past her and walked towards where they needed to set up camp. He called out to her as he walked, “Your men have already been looking into me,” He said casually without looking back. The ones on Raxus still had a vendetta against him, “If they cross lines I don't want, I will dispose of them.”
Malicia remained in place, watching Raze approach, watching him lean over her. He was much taller than her, but she looked up and stared at him directly. There in the dark reflection of his visor she saw her own amber eyes staring back at her. She saw what she was revealing to him, and... it made her angry, because there was no reason he couldn't know about the vulnerability that laid beneath it. Her interest in him, at least on a shallow level.
She didn't give up staring at him, it was too late for that nonesense. Then he spoke and she couldn't help but think he could be right.
But, the Darth remained quiet until he turned and walked away. "I could handle it," she said, finally. She wasn't weak, she'd grown despite keeping others an arms length for the most part, and she couldn't do or say nothing after potentially exposing a vulnerable part of her to another Sith.
She frowned after, deeply. Her cultist had what? She hadn't ordered them to look into Raze. How many others did her cultists look into without prompt? Someone was going to die, and possibly soon. Malicia took out her comm, relaying the orders to move camp and to arrange for supplies to be delivered. At the end, she added her interest in seeing one of her high ranking cultists, right away.
The sun had set over the valley, and the camp was in far better spirits than it had been in a long time. Raze knew that word had traveled back to the king by now, and if the off worlder knew what happened here, he would act swiftly. Outposts and sentries had been posted to keep an eye out for any movement. A scout had already been caught and captured.
The extra rations brought in by Malicia’s men had worked wonders for the soldiers. The men were chanting and cheering, drinking their local ales and celebrating. After seeing her in combat, none of the Massassi soldiers looked at Malicia with anything short of respect. She had proven herself as a warrior among their ranks and thus received the same salutes as she walked by as the generals.
Raze disappeared into a tent for a moment to give himself some reprieve from the helmet when he had complete privacy. He emerged after a while again with the helmet, making his way over to an elevated area that oversaw the valley. He could see the encampment and the lands on the other side of the mountain ridges here.
The stars were brighter on this planet than he had ever seen on any other thus far. There was no sound of industry, no chirping and clicking of machinery. It was only silence up here. He closed his eyes and began to meditate, finding an odd new height of tranquility. It was amplified by the dark energies he felt all around him. The very essence of the planet heeded his call and it was alive and vibrant.
For a good chunk of time, the Darth made herself comfortable in a tent. It'd been arranged specifically for her by her cultists. Almost every little detail was paid attention to. She'd grown to dislike clutter, the tent was minimalist. She liked her datapads stacked in a certain way, that was the way they were placed. There was a number of other little things that made her realize just how obsessively and closely some of her cultists watched her when they got the chance.
It... somewhat disturbed her, but she was their God and could order them to stop such obsessive behaviours. She thought on it and decided it wasn't worth it. Now, if she found them writing some sort of book on her, she'd have that burned.
Once she was done with the few reports she fell behind on, she removed herself from her chair and made way out of the tent. The smell of a boiling pot of various vegetables and meat drifted through the crisp night air, lingering in her nostrils. Malicia hadn't thought of eating for awhile. Even if her feet almost brought her towards it, she knew that she needed to meditate.
Every day, or, at minimum, every few days, she had to meditate to keep things in check in her mind. A recommendation by Renfry she took very seriously. Drifting through the camp, her eyes caught a dark figure up above on the hill. Malicia looked back at the one cultist following her, giving him commands before she walked away from camp.
The cultist, a taller figure, turned and walked until he managed to find himself on the same hill as Raze. He stopped several meters away from the Darth so he didn't disturb the man, but he'd been ordered to serve the Darth for the night.
Raze sat there in silence for a while even as the cultist approached. The cultist began to shift and looked around him, unsure of what to do. The Sith Lord was still and poised as a statue, his mind withdrawn far away from the present. He was wholly aware of the cultist, but gave no indication of it.
The cultist began to walk closer, leaning to stare at the helmet. The man scowled at Raze, trying to look into the visor to see if he could see anything. Still the Sith Lord did not budge, seemingly dead to the world. The cultist drew back and walked around, far more annoyed at having to be here than serving Malicia. He saw this as a demotion and wondered what he had done to get this job.
Growing incredibly bored, the cultist huffed and plopped down to sit in front of Raze. He glared at the helmet in front of him for a long time. After a while, he waved his hands in front of the helmet, beginning to wonder if Raze was simply asleep at that point. The cultist looked off to the side and stared off into the distance. After a while, he forgot there was a Sith Lord there and began to pick his nose in deep thought.
“Go get your mom,” The mechanized voice smoothly cut in to make the cultist jump a foot in the air. He turned to look at Raze, who was still seated, with wide eyes, “I would much prefer her company.”
Highly embarrassed, the cultist didn’t bother saying anything, awkwardly shuffling away and trying to think of any excuse to avoid coming back here again.
Just as Malicia was about to finish her meditation, her cultist approached. Eager to be near her and speak, he called out, "Mother, Raze wishes to see you!" The moment he spoke Malicia shot up, jerking out her arm and wrapping the Force around his neck near instantly. Squeezing it until it snapped and bent in a grotesque way. After, dropping the corpse and letting out her anger with a deep, rumbling growl. The Force accompanied her growl as it rippled out around her, pushing away the sand.
A few moments passed as she breathed in and out, stabilizing herself. Slowly, there was a shift on her face, a cooling of her anger. She was still irritated her meditation was interrupted but once she was level-headed enough to remember Raze's request she made her way towards where she last saw him.
Malica cut through camp, her cultists aware that the look on her face meant not to approach her. Her presence was probably a little stormy in the Force, though she slowed down as she approached Raze and took a seat beside him. Her small frame paled in comparison to the man. She didn't look at him. Her eyes remained trained forward for the moment. "You cost me a cultist," she said. After the pause, she turned her gaze to him, "What did you want to talk about?"
Raze didn’t move the entire time as Malicia approached him, and he could sense the hints of turbulence within her. He was already more tapped into the Force from his meditation and could pick up on subtleties more than usual. His gaze remained trained forward as she took a seat next to him. For a moment, there was nothing but silence, and it would seem again as if Raze were simply asleep sitting.
“Nothing,” Raze said simply after a moment, “I’d simply have your presence here rather than a cultist,” The tone was very matter of fact, and there was nothing complicated about it. His presence in the Force was completely tranquil to where even a Jedi would envy it. A large part of it was simply due to the location. This was far from the death and chaos below, and it didn’t have wandering eyes.
Another moment of silence passed before he spoke again, “On the battlefield you desired to harm me,” He stated flatly. It was the first time he indicated that he had picked up on her near lapse with the hunger. As a predator himself, he could read it in others. He knew when he was in the crosshairs.
That was all? Malicia was still stormy, though her frown was met with a helmet. And likely an empty expression beneath it. She could sense his tranquility and it was making it difficult to remain irritated.
That was until he spoke of her hungers momentary resistance to her control on the battlefield. A bit of uneasiness churned in her, which made her look away again into the distance. The view was probably beautiful but it was lost because she was lost in her thoughts. "No, I didn't," Malicia answered, pausing and breathing in uncomfortably, "At least, not the part of me that's in control."
She left it at that. The only person she'd spoken about her hunger in depth with was Renfry, and now the Nightsister knew so much about her that it was almost dangerous. Malicia's hunger disliked Renfry because of it, but Malicia herself knew that she... had a fondness for the woman. One that went deep. Deep enough that she worried it'd tear her apart. She'd never admit to it.
"It's nothing you need to fear," Malicia said, though she wasn't certain that was true. She doubted the hunger was stupid enough to eat a powerful Sith and asset, but there was more to it. More to the potential that it could wreck. That was why she kept her eyes away from the Darth. They remained strictly on the view.
The steely helmet slowly turned to look at Malicia. She wouldn’t see his eyes, but the feeling of being unraveled by a piercing gaze was there all the same. She would feel his gaze on her even when she didn’t look, “I thought you said you had self control,” The voice spoke matter of factly again, recalling her words back on the battlefield. Self control didn't exactly apply when it was only for a specific portion. This was perhaps the tamest Raze had been, and it was likely due to the relaxing ambience around them.
“I do not fear it,” He said after a moment, “Quite the contrary,” A beast knew a beast. He had seen that destructive look in himself. It was the kind of look that bled into Raze and pushed Emryc aside. He was a monster in his own right, though he kept it chained and caged most of the time. Raze allowed that outlet, and he was always teetering on the edge. It was a dangerous dance, but one he thoroughly enjoyed.
“Perhaps we should fear one another,” He stated as he gazed ahead of himself again. They were both monsters capable of tearing one another apart in various different ways. It was apparent by their very nature and in their demeanor. Neither knew the other had been crafted and conditioned in similar ways since they were children.
Malicia could feel his knowing eyes on her and see his movement from the sides of her vision. She didn't want to look back at him, even if all she'd see was a helmet. His words lingered while she hesitated. But, he probably already knew what she was about to say. "I.... fight for control," she answered. She was multiple parts and the part speaking to him now kept the others in a cage under lock as best it could. Kept... everything it could locked, but the very foundation of the cage was cracking as time went on.
Her gaze almost brought itself to him when he spoke again. She could sense truth behind his words. Maybe that was why her hunger was compelled to gaze at and search the Darth in the first place?
A monster could sense a monster.
Maybe she should fear him, but there was something oddly... not comforting per say, but compelling about another like minded Sith . Malicia allowed her eyes to settle forward again, finally taking in the view. "I think I prefer your company over my men too. I wouldn't mind sitting here for a little longer," she answered simply, as matter of fact as he'd been speaking to her. It probably wasn't the answer he was looking for, but, despite the connection, she still didn't want to get anymore in depth about her hunger.
Her words amused him, though he gave no indication of that. Control was something Raze prized above all. When he had been on Dathomir, the spirits had entered his mind and he had lost control. The same had happened when he faced the Grandmaster on Ajan Kloss. He had since made it his mission not to let any other entity ever enter his mind. His path took him to seek out Darth Kravos’s holocron and the lessons had since turned his mind into an impenetrable fortress.
“And who wins that fight more often?” Raze asked, the mechanized voice hiding the clear amusement that would lace his tone otherwise. He knew she had almost lost it on the battlefield, and he wondered what would have happened if they began to lose the fight. Monsters grew more enraged when they were backed into corners.
Her next suggestion caused him to look at her once more. For a moment, he said nothing, the steely helmet blank as always.
“Your men may have quite a bit to say about you spending too much alone time with me,” Raze said quietly, the visor piercing into her yellow eyes, “I wonder what scenarios they may be conjuring up in their minds.”
He let the words hang for a moment before he rose to stand. Raze gazed out over the horizon, spotting a path that led down and out, “Have you explored this planet before?” He began to walk down the path, the moonlight and stars making the path clear enough.
She didn't answer his question. That was something she decided within the first few seconds of hearing it. He was either intentionally or unintentionally needling at her hunger, slowly unraveling how it worked. By not replying, she was probably letting on that there was a lot more to know, but there weren't very many other good options to go with.
Malicia fought against her instinct to look away when he teased her. Her jaw tightened and she remained looking at him, ignoring that baser instinct at the back of her mind. She said nothing still. Maybe it was his instinct? To play with others. Malicia was... all about the hunger, the euphoria of it coursing through her veins, her body, her mind and getting completely lost in it. She lived there, until it was ripped away.
"I haven't," she answered, the smaller of the two monsters.
Malicia stood, walking by him for a handful of seconds, but she quickened her pace when an old, broken pillar caught her attention. It sparkled somehow from the moon rays, likely from being in just the right angle. Sometimes, beauty did catch her attention. Her deathly pale fingers slid across the cold stone, brushing away the gathered dust from the sand. "Why do you toy with me?" she asked suddenly.
She made her way around the pillar, stopping on the other side to face him. "Do you simply enjoy it?" she asked, tipping her head slightly. Her eyes were more empty now, more distant but she couldn't hide her curiosity. "Or do you have scenarios conjured up too?"
Raze wasn’t surprised she hadn’t been here before. However, he did have to commend her interests in reclaiming these regions again. It was one of the reasons she was quite possibly one of the very few individuals he genuinely respected. Few Sith had taken any real action to further the cause, and Malicia had always been at the forefront. Most of the Order were sheep that followed.
He caught sight of the pillar, walking towards it and studying the ruins. He didn’t touch it, observing instead from a distance to note any markings or patterns that gave clues to the origin. There was what appeared to be the remains of an old courtyard past the pillar, old slabs of stone still left behind. Raze was about to step forth when Malicia came around the pillar to address him. He saw the way she looked at him, taking note in the shift of her eyes. He didn’t respond immediately, dissecting the question several different ways in his mind. Had he been toying with her?
“Would you like me to stop?” Raze asked simply, not elaborating on the rest of her question. He stepped forth and walked alongside the pillar as well, though he still didn’t touch it.
That he didn't give a direct answer barely registered in her mind. They were similar in more than a few ways. Hers eyes drifted to the side, and she thought on his question.
Was she enjoying this? Her yellow gaze settled back to the Sith after the pause to think, noting the rays creating an outline around his helmet. She tipped her head at it. Her hand extended towards the helmet almost absentmindedly as she spoke, "I'd like... to see whats behind the helmet."
It didn't answer his question, exactly, or maybe it did. She could not deny the part of her that... enjoyed his company. She also could not ignore that she still desired to see what was beneath that helmet, and that he kept it from her. Why? Was there even a point? Who was the man who gave her that Dark Side twisted rose that she still carried on her belt?
Raze didn’t step back as she reached forward, but he also didn’t indicate that he would allow her to touch him. He silently gazed down at her, his demeanor and the way he carried himself making it abundantly clear he liked to be touched only on his terms. The visor studied her face, taking in the deceptively delicate way she came across. Beneath that almost fragile exterior lay a monster, not too unlike the goddess he worshipped.
“Perhaps when your reasons extend to beyond just simple curiosity,” The mechanized voice said after a moment. He stepped forth towards her and then walked right past, purposely just barely brushing against her as he did so. His gaze was set ahead once more, focused on the ruins they had stumbled into. The planet was a treasure trove of the past, and it contained countless relics that could tell stories of the old sith.
“This may have been the living quarters of Ludo Kressh,” Raze said quietly as he observed the markings and patterns on one of the pillars, “His descendants may have used this for their personal quarters or a garrison in times of battle,” He wasn’t entirely sure whether or not Malicia actually cared about any of this, but he found it fascinating enough. He paused for a moment to look at her.
“Why have you begun a campaign to reclaim the old Sith worlds?”
Malicia's expression changed only slightly when he answered, a frown though there was more she tried to hide from showing in her eyes. She fought against a desire to withdraw behind the pillar when he brushed against her. Malicia instead stayed by the pillar. She leaned against it, staring at him with a forced blank expression until he spoke.
But thoughts drifted away when he recalled Ludo Kressh. It was probably the first time since they met that she only half-listened to him. Thinking back on it, she'd drawn little pleasure from the history of these worlds, at least a lot less than Raze. What she'd drawn most pleasure from was reaping, and simply being on Moraband.
Then he asked the question. Wind rushed between the two, filling the silence left in the moments she thought. Only one other person asked her that question, and she'd answered truthfully because of that reason. That Renfry had asked when no one else had. Maybe, also, because she felt like it wouldn't be easy to draw the line between it and her hunger. She wasn't even sure there was a line to be drawn. She barely understood herself.
"I feel drawn to it, to here," she admitted, shifting on the pillar to gaze at it. Her fingers gripped at the pillar as she continued, " Sometimes I wonder if I'm simply misinterpreting it, but right now I know I'm in the right place."
She thought a second, and then she wondered, "Why do you care?" Her fingers remained curled against the hard stone but she finally looked at him.
Raze picked up on her growing disenchanted with the historical nuances about the planet, and it confirmed his suspicions. He returned to studying the patterns and architecture, feeling an energy here that was ancient and barely there. The grounds were alive with rich history woven with politics, drama and violence. The Sith were far more complex than the outside worlds gave them credit for.
He looked towards Malicia as she spun the question back on him, “You are drawn, but know not why. Then it’s no different than you wanting to see my face, correct?” Raze walked towards her again, “Simple, crude curiosity. You want to see it, want to know it, and yet you can’t quite explain why. Do you deserve to see it without appreciating why you wish to see it in the first place?”
Raze closed the distance between them and paused for a moment, “May I?” He would gesture towards her hand and wait for her permission before grabbing it. He placed her hand against one of the walls that remained from the ruins, his gloved hand above hers, “Close your eyes and see through the Force. This place is full of memories that go far beyond dull, written words on a page. Look into the chaos, the bloodlust, the ferocious nature of the people here. Feel the sorrows of loss, the joy of triumph and the bitter taste of betrayal,” The hunger in her was drawn to how the planet pulsated with life, and it drew from the battles and life that once existed here.
Raze seemed to change somewhat as the conversation shifted to the mystic. He went something from playful to serious. Malicia head tipped slightly as he talked. She'd never considered what she deserved or didn't deserve. She simply took and did what she desired. With consideration of course. But, it was odd that she hadn't she sought out the why.
A yellow gaze watched the tall Sith Lord move again. She waited until his hand came to a stop before finally accepting it. Her shoulder and arm jerk as he placed her hand against the wall with an unexpected suddenness.
Once she got past her surprise and a small amount of hesitancy, she gave in. He was not the first to guide her. Her eyes grew heavy, closing as she allowed him his words to sink in. She allowed herself to become in tune with the ruins, the planet, its history. Within her mind, she was on top of a hill. Battle after battle played out before her. A black mass in humanoid form stood beside her, gazing over the world, and she understood it and why it gazed. Before she pulled back, she watched it turn and look down. Malicia followed it gaze onto a form in the same armor as Raze.
Her eyes opened back on Korriban, pausing as it sunk it. It was clear she'd gleaned some answers, though she remained quiet at first. The moons rays added almost a glow to the strands of her silvery as her head tipped somewhat. Raze was unravelling her, even as she was trying her best to avoid it. She pulled her hand away from his, turning to lean back on the building and study him back.
"You understand I feed..." Malicia began, her head turned slightly as she examined him. What little she could examine from a helmet, anyway. "But what if I devoured an entire city one day? A world? What if it wasn't enough, still?"she asked. "Would I be too much of a monster to you?" Her eyes had a curious look again, but the question meant more than that to her.
Raze remained silent as Malicia pulled out of the vision and memories. He knew glimpses of what she saw, but the vision was her own. He remained standing where he was, not moving towards her after she shifted back. Her words were followed by silence. There was nothing but the brush of wind against the sand and the distant howl of a tuk’ata.
“You should strive to devour cities and worlds if it is by your own doing,” He spoke at last, “All power has a means of being harnessed and controlled. The dark side intimidates and tests that control, but it is always possible to force it to obey.”
His own principles worked that way. He had no desire to let the dark side overwhelm and control him. He had no desire to become corrupt to the Force to where he was a mindless husk doing the dark side’s bidding. No, he would always be the master. He would be the one to bring the Force to heel.
The visor of the helmet gazed at her for a moment later before Raze addressed her last question that had been addressed to him directly, “I only desire monsters.”
Only Raze's voice settled between them for a time. Malicia felt herself tense just a little bit more as he spoke of control. Control was something he brought up before. Something she didn't enjoy thinking about because she fought for it constantly.
Was there hope to beat it?
His helmeted gaze settled back on her and he spoke again before she could process. It...well, she felt herself smile and some tenseness in her body melt away. It was her very first, raw reaction and a moment later she caught herself but... she look up at the figure before her and she was reminded of the comfort she felt being around him. He was similar, unfazed and possibility even understanding. It added another layer onto the attractiveness of his daunting figure, and how he protected her.
They really were alike, at least in some ways. Malicia pushed off the building, walking past the Sith Lord with a little less wariness in her steps. She stopped and allowed her arms to outstretch. Her mind focused, honing in on the life around them. The camp and the beings drifting through it. It stirred her hunger enough to prompt it to claw against her mind. An uncomfortable feeling, but she kept her control then opened her eyes.
"Are you certain its always possible?" she asked, hoping he'd say yes despite the doubt in her voice. "Even the woman I go to, who... understands me, has only been able to help so much. She has given me more peace of mind than I have had in many years, but not complete control."