Ask In the Mountains

Jaikus Thorne

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Unremarkable.

That had been Jaikus’ first reaction to Telos IV as his dropped into the planet’s lower atmosphere, the starfighter soaring only a few kilometers above the surface. Above the northernmost continent of the planet, the landscape was dominated by an endless sea of frigid, snow-capped mountains – tall, stony talons rising up and twisting into the sky in an amalgamation of different shapes, with deep valleys cut between. There was admittedly a distinct beauty that one could attribute to the planet – a place of complete solitude and serenity, entirely devoid of endless buzz and bustle that was so common on the urban monstrosity Jaikus called his homeworld. To Jaikus, though, it was entirely unremarkable. He had not traveled half-way across the galaxy to admire the planet for its mountains, nor did he find any comfort in its isolated vistas. As per usual, it was the promise of artifacts that had brought Jaikus to the far-flung Outer-Rim planet.

“Are you sure about this, Master?” The silence was broken by the synthetic voice of 12-H7D, ‘Twelves’, Jaikus’ personal Protocol droid. The droid had been the sole source of company for Jaikus during the expedition, given that he preferred to work alone during these types of journeys, preferring less people with the potential to get in his way. And, if his search proved fruitful, less competition for the spoils.

“Quite sure. I don’t intend to have a repeat of that mess on Umbara.”

“Or Ziost, master.”

“Stop talking, Twelves.” Jaikus grumbled.

The information had come from a particularly seedy individual found on the lower levels of Axxila, to the Droids credit. The Duros in question had claimed to know the location of an abandoned Jedi temple, untouched since the days of the Empire. There were plenty of smugglers and fraudulent antiquities dealers in the Outer Rim who made such claims, of course, especially now with Sith and Jedi alike scouring the galaxy for anything relating to their long-lost heritage. None-the-less, Jaikus was unwilling to let mere promise of such a treasure-trove go uninvestigated, and the Duros’ information seemed creditable enough – referencing Imperial records of the location - to warrant what it cost him in unmarked credits.

Any doubts there might’ve been were summarily doused as Jaikus began to approach temple ruins – its sleek architecture and iconic temple spire rising up from the flattened pinnacle of one of Telos’ mountains. Most of the locations he had stumbled upon in the past were dilapidated and decayed, little more than piles of rubble. Instead, Jaikus was greeted by the sight of a complex that was, for the most part, entirely intact, with only the wearing of age from decades of neglect. It brought a faint smile to Jaikus’ lips to see that his gamble had paid off.

The ship finally touched down into the snow with a ‘thud’, followed by the hiss of the landing ramp extending out towards the ground. Jaikus quickly gathered his belongings and made for the exit, pulling up the dark hood of his cloak over his head.

“Keep the engine running and the ship prepped. I want to be prepared to leave at a moments notice.”

“Oh dear. Are you expecting hostilities?” The droid spoke with a tone of concern.

“Unlikely, but don’t want to take any chances.”

@lizziie
 

Jaesa Valerin

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Jaesa stood before the entrance to the Sith temple, studying it intensely with yellow eyes under a furrowed brow. She had come to investigate the integrity of the Jedi Temple to see if it would be worth a restoration project. Telos was awfully close to Sith space, so having a base of operations here could be useful to the Order. Curiosity, however, had led Jaesa away from the main rooms of the Temple and deeper into the ruins. The increasing amount of security only served to build her interest. It had taken the Dathomirian several hours to disable the security measures without out-right breaking them, but now that she stood before the triangular door she was conflicted. The dark side of the Force radiated here. On one hand, Jaesa wished she had not chosen venture so deep into the Temple, but on the other, her curiosity burned within her. So here she was, studying the runes unreadable to her under the yellow-green light of her lightsaber.

No Jedi had yet found a way to open this door. Jaesa knew that she would not be an exception to that, but her curiosity was so intense that she threw wisdom out the door. The young woman took a seat several meters away from the entrance and crossed her legs. With her hands folded in her lap, Jaesa closed her eyes and began to meditate.

Through the Force, she studied the definition of the shapes around her. Sight through the Force allowed her to see the sealed entrance before her in a different light. It radiate the dark side of the Force, and the more she studied it the thicker the air around her seemed to grow. Because it was so thickly covered in the Force, Jaesa could not use the Sight to see through it. So, disappointed, Jaesa opened her eyes and stood. She took one more look around the room before trekking back through the narrow tunnel which led to the Jedi Temple above.

As Jaesa slept that night, the night terrors which haunted her sleep were more intense than anything she'd ever experienced before. Flashes of green blinded her eyes; panicked screams attacked her ears; thick black smoke filled her lungs; a baby's cries surrounded her. But Jaesa could only witness it, powerless even to move as black encroached on the corners of her vision and fear filled her heart.

Jaesa woke up in a cold sweat, breathing heavily in the chilly mountain air. She had fallen asleep in one of the meditation rooms in the main Temple, where her base of operations had been located since she'd arrived here a few days ago. The sun was out. She must have slept a while. But strangely, she couldn't remember anything after she entered the tunnel to return here. It concerned her, so Jaesa decided that perhaps it would be time to leave. First, she needed to reactivate the security measures. So she headed there.

------------------------

Outside, Jeasa's ship sat outside the temple, covered in a thick layer of white snow.

@Altaris
 

Jaikus Thorne

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Jaikus furrowed his brow with displeasure, running a gloved hand across the snow-covered hull of a ship not his own.

"Someone else is here." He cursed under his breath, his hand clenching into a fist.

The Sith had hoped he would be the only one to find this place, able to go about his business without the interference of anyone else. That clearly wasn’t going to be the case. The only question that remained was who the Axxilan would be dealing with. Pirates were likely, seeking to make a profit off whatever scraps they could find salvage. A fellow Sith or Jedi were even more so, given the significance of such a place to both factions. In all three cases, Jaikus didn’t expect a warm welcome when he found them. Thieves rarely liked to share.

As he passed through the main entrance to the temple, Jaikus began to make his way through its grand corridors and hallways. While undamaged and in good condition, the temple had been thoroughly pillaged over the decades – everything from its valuable artifacts to the common statues having been stripped and hauled away, likely to be destroyed or sold on the black market. Jaikus’ suspected the Empire and First Order had been responsible for the lions share of the looting. He had briefly considered making his way to the temple archives, to see what he might be able to salvage there, but soon found there was something else which occupied his consciousness.

He had been able to sense it from the moment he arrived on the planet, but the sensation only grew stronger the farther into the complex he traveled. The temple – or something within it, more likely – radiated with the Dark Side, thrumming like a heartbeat from the depths of the complex. He had experienced similar nexuses of the Dark Side on planets like Malachor or Ziost – planets steeped in ancient Sith history and dotted with their temples - but never in a place that the Jedi might once called home.

It was… Bizarre, and thus all the more intriguing to him. With this new objective in mind, whatever it was, Jaikus let the Dark Side guide him deeper and deeper into the complex, until he finally reached the temple’s subterranean floor and whoever awaited him there.

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Jaesa Valerin

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Jaesa was in the security room carefully reactivating the security measures. After a few minutes, the computer finally accepted the commands and reenacted the systems. The Jedi shook her head and entered a report onto her datapad. While functional, the computers would surely need to be replaced. Though she doubted this place would ever return to being a Temple, if it did, she would surely want something in place keeping younglings and padawans from reaching the door. Even here, in the room before the tunnel, she could feel it.

The Jedi Knight gathered her things and went to exit, hoping to leave this place immediately. She didn't like the strength in which the dark side called her down here. Without her master to help her keep her head, Jaesa did not think she would be strong enough against it. She fought every day against the night terrors and the blood of Dathomir; especially early after waking, she did not have the strength of will to push back. She wanted nothing more than to return to her ship to meditate. But when Jaesa exited the room and started back up into the higher level, she stopped.

A man was walking toward her.

Standing there, staring at Jaikus, Jaesa did not particularly look like a Jedi. Her pale skin and tattoos were undeniably of Dathomir, and her bright yellow eyes did not hold peace in them as she stared. But in a place so dark, her connection to the Force--though dim after being terrorized in her dreams--was unmistakable.

"This place is not for you. Leave immediately." Jaesa's hand moved to hover over her lightsaber. She did not know his intentions, but who else but Sith would walk here so directly?

@Altaris
 

Jaikus Thorne

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Like a beacon in the dark, Jaikus allowed the thrumming to guide through the maze-like corridors of the temple. Just as he descended down a flight of stairs and rounded the corner to the security room, he was greeted by perhaps the last thing he was hoping to find within this place - another Jedi, intent on blocking his path. Truthfully, he had no qualms about having to fight his way to his prize, but the Axxilan Sith had hoped to spare himself the inconvenience.

Fantastic. He thought to himself, exhaling sharply through his nostrils. He instinctively reached for his lightsaber, letting the metallic hilt fall from his sleeve and into his hands. Interestingly, he decided against igniting its crimson blade for the time being, choosing not to engage the Dathomirian immediately. Admittedly, the woman before him was… Intriguing. Undoubtedly a Jedi, and yet unlikely any Jaikus had encountered in the past. Over the years, he had been acquainted with a handful of the witches of Dathomir. Certainly not the most pleasant individuals, and the thought of one of them serving as a Jedi, given their culture’s natural affinity for the Dark Side, seemed anathema to him.

The more he studied the woman infront of him, he began to wonder what her purpose here was. It was unlikely she'd been sent to guard such a remote complex alone, and even if she had, why linger so close to a place steeped in the Dark Side? Most Jedi would have been repelled by its very nature, relegating themselves to the upper levels of the temple. And yet here she was. Was it possible curiosity had gotten the better of her? Was she somehow drawn to this place, as much as he was?

“Oh? And who precisely would you say this place is meant for? Seems to me it isn't being occupied by anyone, at the present moment.” Jaikus narrowed his eyes, his patience growing thin. "For your own sake, Jedi, I suggest you get out of my way."

@lizziie
 

Jaesa Valerin

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"Not meant for Sith."

Jaesa's lightsaber painted a yellowish tint on the walls around them as it was ignited with her words. Her face had remained stoic as ever, though her brows furrowed as she lit her weapon. She would not be getting out of anyone's way. She would not be letting a Sith go down to the entrance.

"I suggest you leave."

And with that, Jaesa would assume a defensive stance with one hand holding the lightsaber and the other at ready. Though she was nervous, she felt eerily calm. Hopefully she would not loose her cool.

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Jaikus Thorne

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“What precisely does that make you then? A Jedi?” His voice carried a tone of disbelief and mocking.

The Sith frowned at Jaesa as she ignited her saber and assumed a defensive stance, his lips curling into snarl. His own saber ignited with a low hiss, filling the room with its sinister vermillion glow. “Have the Jedi fallen so far that they’ve begun to openly let Nightsister’s into their ranks? Or do the rest of your Order simply pretend not to be disturbed by your heritage?”

Truthfully, Jaikus hadn’t the slightest clue who he was up against. But if there was one thing the Sith was good at, it was manipulating his opponent. If he could get inside of her head, throw her off balance just slightly, than he would have an easier fight ahead of him. Jaikus held his saber in a two-handed guard, the blade of crimson plasma pointed vertical and positioned to the left of his body – a standard opening stance as a Form IV practitioner such as himself.

The Sith began to circle the perimeter of the security room, keeping his distance from the Dathomirian woman. When he finally found what he believed to be a minor flaw in her stance, the Sith sprang forward towards the Jaesa, Force agility allowing him to vault through the air in a whirl of crimson plasma. Landing only a few feet away to her left side, Jaikus brought his blade downward in a diagonal slash towards her torso.

@lizziie
 
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Jaesa Valerin

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"All creatures are welcome in the Force," Jaesa retorted. Her yellow eyes remained carefully trained on him as he circled the room, her lightsaber held with two hands before her. When Jaikus leapt toward her, she was able to react quick enough to pull her lightsaber up and in the way of the strike, connecting the two blades with a sizzle. She would struggle against it for a moment, before shoving her weight against his blade and then jumping back herself. Jaesa would then reassume a defensive position, and immediately begin wondering how she would get out of this.

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Jaikus Thorne

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“Tell me Dathomirian, what were you doing past those security doors? We can both feel it, whatever is in there. Hardly a place for a Jedi, don’t you think?”

Relentless and aggressive in his dueling style, Jaikus gave Jaesa little time to reconstitute her defenses – his objective to overwhelm her, lacking the ability to outright overpower her. While speaking, he managed to close the distance between them, dashing toward her in a zig-zag pattern with enhanced speed. Once within range, he carved the plasma blade in his hands down at a forty-five degree angle toward her thigh, aiming to slice through her leg in one clean motion.

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Jaesa Valerin

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"Tell me Dathomirian, what were you doing past those security doors?"

The question caught her off guard--noticeably so--and while she managed to block the slice at her thigh, her reaction was a little delayed. The heat from his and her lightsaber radiated against the fabric of her pants and she felt it warm her skin.

"That's none of your business," she would retort through clenched teeth as forced the blade back against him, trying to overpower him long enough to leave an opening for her to slip out of the clash. But what had she been doing down there? Why would she try to open it? Was it that she was drawn to it? No... it made her sick!

After pushing against his blade, Jaesa would slide the blade up Jaikus' lightsaber to create distance, then use the opportunity to jump back away from him. The Dathomirian began to circle to the left, trying to switch their positions.

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Jaikus Thorne

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“Oh dear, have I struck a nerve?”

Good.


While more than capable of holding his own in this engagement, Jaikus was not interested in a fighting a prolonged duel with the woman. His constant barrage of japes and ridicules had purpose. The more he was able to get in her head and play with her emotions, the more likely she was to make a mistake he could capitalize upon.

There was a momentary flash of strain in his expression as Jaesa forced his saber back towards him, illuminating his face with the combined glow of plasma. Nonetheless, a sinister smirk played on his lips of the Sith as Jaesa broke their bladelock and fled backwards, watching with yellow iris' as the Jedi begin to circle the room. In response, The Sith shifted his own stance. Jaikus turned his body so he was standing sideface towards the Dathomirian, his right foot back behind him and left foot pointed out infront of him. Rather than maintain his two-handed grip, Jaikus allowed his lightsaber to drop down into the his left hand, its sinister vermillion blade held parallel to his body and pointed towards the ground.

He was baiting her to attack.

“Come then, Jedi. Show me what your training has amounted to.”

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Jaesa Valerin

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It had been...a while since Jaesa had last felt anger. She was good at controlling her emotions; she was a good Jedi. But there was something about the taunting in his voice, the way he spoke down to her as if she were a child needing scolded... well, it was not helping her to keep her cool.

Jaesa exhaled and rushed forward, lowering her saber so she could swing it up across Jaikus' chest.

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Jaikus Thorne

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Perfect. Jaikus thought to himself.

When Jaesa came within range, Jaikus twisted his body abruptly and sidestepped to the left of her charge. Keeping his saber low, he rotated his wrist and brought the blade of crimson plasma to catch against her own in such a way that the mid-section of her yellowish blade was pressed beneath the lower two-thirds of his own – keeping their sabers pointed downward toward the ground and pinned there. The Sith already did not have a significant strength advantage over her, and while his maneuver had done well to keep her from slashing across his chest, it would not have been terribly difficult for the Dathomirian woman to overwhelm his defenses with his saber held in one hand.

It was imperative he did not give her the opportunity to capitalize upon it.

While fighting against her bladelock, the Sith drew his open palm back. Harnessing all of the ire and frustration that boiled within, Jaikus sent a wave of force energy directly into the woman’s torso – sending her hurling back away from him. Slamming into her at point-blank range, the shockwave most certainly knock the wind out of her, and more than likely left her with a few bruised ribs if not otherwise absorbed.


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Jaesa Valerin

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Jaesa was thrown back by Jaikus' Force push. Her breath was knocked out of her chest by the shockwave of force that hit her, and the Jedi flew back and smacked into the far wall of the room. The lightsaber once held firmly in her hand rolled off to the side as she struggled to get air back into her lungs. Her vision began to blur, and she began to panic. I can't breathe. I can't breathe! The feeling was worsened by the limpness of her body and her inability to focus on anything in the room. She'd had the wind knocked out of her before, but this was different; it wasn't coming back.

She began to reach out into the Force, trying anything to grasp onto something which might aid her. A quick moment of clarity hit her--the air!--and oxygen flowed back into her lungs as it was forced in through the Force. This all happened maybe over the course of a few seconds, and while forcing air back into her lungs caused her to cough harshly, the Jedi was able to slowly rise back to her feet.

Her eyes trained back on the Sith across the room while her hand reached out to pull her saber back to her. I need to get out of here. Jaesa began to very quickly take note of things she could use to her advantage. At this point, she didn't need to beat him. She just needed to stall him long enough that she could get back to her ship. There.

Jaesa reached out with both hands, contouring the Force around Jaikus before jerking her hands to the right, flinging that energy toward the hall which led down to the triangular Sith entrance. It had a decent downward slope, and if he didn't catch himself on something, he might tumble down a little further.

She would then use the opportunity to run, gathering the Force around her so that she might make it far before he caught his bearings.

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Jaikus Thorne

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To Jaesa’s credit, she had caught Jaikus by surprise. The Sith was in the middle of leaping toward her – lightsaber held up above his head in mid-air – when the Force suddenly coiled around his torso, sending him flying to the right and down the hallway that led to the Sith Shrine, the Axxilan tumbling down the carved stairs unceremoniously. Had she capitalized upon his surprise instead of running, she very well might have given him something to worry about.

Rising to his feet, Jaikus brushed himself off and began to make his way back up to engage the Dathomirian – vaulting himself forward and landing gracefully at the top stairway just as she rounded the corner. Part of him considered letting her flee. She had been nothing but a thorn in his side since he arrived, and he did not come here to fight her. She was a utter waste of his time.

Still, he knew he could not simply continue with her lingering about. Even if she did flee the planet, there was nothing stopping her from sabotaging his ship on her way out, leaving him stranded in the frigid mountains. Not to mention, her stunt with pushing him down the stairs had enraged him. Now it was personal.

Jaikus didn’t waste very much time, clipping his lightsaber back to his hip and starting to run after her. As soon as she was within his line of sight once more, he reached out with the Force to lift some of the scattered debris that littered the temple floor, hauling it in her direction. “Leaving so soon, witch?”


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Jaesa Valerin

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“Leaving so soon, witch?” Fuck. Jaesa kept running, but turned and out stretch her hand, sending another wave of Force towards him as she did so. Her push hit his rocks, effectively canceling out both of their attacks. When she reached the doorway of the temple she would spin around and reach out with both hands, sending out the largest wave of Force she could muster up. Rocks, vases, or anything not secured to the ground would fly away from her, not directly at Jaikus, but most definitely in his direction. The attack would hit Jaikus like a wall of Force, giving Jaesa time to dart out of the temple, breathing heavily.

The knight burst out into the cold, her feet carrying her the rest of the way to her ship. "Squeaky, engines, now!" The knight lifted the top and slid inside as the engine started up. A few seconds later and she was gone, taking off into the atmosphere.

// exit thread

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