The trip was awkward and quiet; Tiamat was uncertain what to make of Jaikus, the last they interacted...well, she was having a hard time remembering, for some reason, she thought it was a boat. She needed more time to figure out that one, but instead had kept to herself while they traveled on her ship, The Hawkward, until they arrive at their destination. A conservative, small freighter, she wasn't used to having anyone else on board her ship, but ensured Jaikus would be comfortable enough without disturbing some of her work which seemed to have taken over most of her ship. Mostly drawn out star maps and books though if Jaikus was curious enough, he could read the equations and algorithms that left the designated writing board and made their way along the walls. At some point one equation led into an outline of a chocolate torte recipe. As for the information she gave Jaikus to their mission, it was brief: come to this world, see if this piece of ship still existed, taken what she needed and leave. However, for Tiamat, nothing was ever that simple since the sensors picked up something else.
"There might be something else out there, but I am hoping that we're far enough that we will go unnoticed." Tiamat explained as she gathered her belongings to take with her as they would need to make their way through narrow canyons to their destination. The ship where it was landed was as close as she could take it without wedging it destructively in the mountains. She turned and paused, suddenly lost in her own thoughts and then took out a pen and fixed a number, scoffing at her own error, like it was so obvious. A small droid, GeeGee followed behind her, reminding her of what to grab before her and Jaikus exited the ship.
At least the weather was pleasant for now, despite the growing grey clouds, she figured they would be well on their way before any rain came.
Jaikus couldn’t deny that the trip to the was awkward. While the two hadn’t had a tremendous amount of interactions with each other in the past, there was something unmistakable off about the way she acted. Nevertheless, Jaikus didn’t press the issue – spending most of the trip pouring over a data pad in his lap, a few messages being sent back and forth.
Tiamat clearly wished to keep to herself, and the Axxilan respected her wishes during the duration of the flight.
Their objective on the planet was exploratory by nature, and for that reason, Jaikus had forwent his usual armor – opting for something a bit more low-key. The Axxilan wore a pair of tan trousers and a tight-fitting t-shirt, alongside a jacket pulled over the top to stave off the cold. Nevertheless, the Axxilan kept his lightsaber safely secured to his belt. Just in case.
As they approached landing, Jaikus began to gather his belongings – slinging a small pack over his shoulder. As he walked through the ship, the Axxilan stopped to stare at the equations that lined the walls, citrine eyes lingering especially long on the chocolate torte recipe. While it was peculiar, the Axxilan nevertheless took a moment to memorize it – adding it to the list of things he would attempt, having recently gained a newfound interest in cooking. Somehow, he already knew the overly-sweet recipe would go un-utilized.
“Famous last words,” He quipped, narrowing his eyes slightly on the sensors. Their objective was simple in theory, though it rarely ever panned out that way. Not ever, really. The Axxilan could just feel that they were going to come face-to-face with whatever else was out there.
He didn’t linger on the topic for much longer, following Tiamat towards the exit. As they stepped out into the open for the first time in hours, Jaikus couldn’t deny the natural appeal of the landscape – citrine eyes lingering upon the rolling, grassy hills that narrowed into a craggy canyon, a lazy river weaving inbetween. The air was crisp, and a heavy blanket of dog shrouded the horizon.
Jaikus glanced back towards Tia, flashing a characteristic smirk. “Better be careful. Those are tell-tale signs of Captain Tihsllub,” He quipped, making reference to the horror-story that himself, Emryc and Renfry had tormented her with back at the boat.
The Axxilan turned his attention back to the path ahead, starting to progress forward and towards the narrow, rocky canyons. “You never mentioned, what is this piece of ship that we are looking for?” There was genuine interest in the man’s tone, glancing back over his shoulder towards her.
The droid tried to follow and Tiamat stopped to point it back to the ship; it, of course, didn't go back quietly as it grumbled in low tone droid speak about the unfairness of this situation. As she glanced over her shoulder to make sure GeeGee was staying behind, Jaikus quipped something on a Captain Tihsllub and the redheaded woman gave him a bemused look. She studied him for a moment, finding how he said it seemed familiar, but she couldn't quite place her thumb on it. Tia fell into her thoughts as she followed along the path she had mapped out, had she heard him say that name before? It was like an itch she couldn't reached as she dug through their most recent interactions, though before she could ask him what Captain he was talking about, he asked another question.
"The engine." she answered, her blue gaze catching the corner of his eye as she slowed her steps, becoming more cautious as they moved over the loose rock and stone. "I am hoping its one of the ancient Nihil designs." she explained, pausing to pick up a rather flat rock and examining it. Seeming satisfied, she pocketed it and continued, "But if its no long around, then maybe there will be something left of the navigation system. Any of it will help me, honestly." Tiamat explained.
She continued with Jaikus in silence as she daydreamed of the limitless opportunities, sighing happily to the thought of creating her new engine. Though, remembering where she was, Tia shook her head and glanced at Jaikus again while she checked their location on her holo-map. "So who is Captain Tihsllub? Is that new a new holo-film?" she asked, eyebrow quirking, though genuine curiosity as she tried to figure out what made it sound so familiar.
Jaikus glanced back over his shoulder, watching as GeeGee defiantly attempted to follow them onto their adventure. He couldn’t help bit smirk ever-so-slightly at the little exchange, citrine eyes lingering for a moment before snapping back ahead. Tiamat had clearly mapped their route before arrival, and Jaikus allowed her to take the lead – following closely behind as they traveled.
He arched a brow slightly when Tiamat spoke again, answering his question. “The Nihil Marauders?” The Axxilan immediately seemed to perk up as soon as the topic turned historical – newfound interest clear on his expression. One could practically see the gears turning behind his eyes at that moment, connecting the dots when she mentioned both the engine and navigation system. “I take it your interested in utilizing the Paths, then?” He queried, referring to the unique hyperspace routes utilized by the ancient marauders.
The Axxilan continued along the path, hugging close to the canyon wall as the path began to narrow. The last question from Tiamat clearly threw him off guard, enough to cause Jaikus to stop and stare for a moment. After a few moments, he simply smirked and shook his head.
“Uh huh.” He replied, very clearly thinking that Tiamat was feigning ignorance about the ghost story. “Considering the way you were freaking out back on that boat, I am quite sure you remember Captain Tihsllub."
Tiamat stopped when he gave a faux agreement to her not recalling who this captain was, so far she was stirring any recollection of the name being in connection with the path engine ships she was searching for out here. She turned around to face him, her gaze meeting his own in a deadpan stare as she mentally worked to process what he was trying to explain. He was reassuring that she would remember Captain Tihsllub and a boat, and connecting the two brought some familiarity, but her thoughts failed to reflect any expression of agreement with Jaikus.
Slowly she turned back around, not muttering anything at first as she concentrated on climbing up to the next ledge. Wondering if he would keep pressing on the topic she eventually pressed a chuckle, "Heh, yeah, that's right, had to keep a look out for that Captain." she shrugged and gave one more half-effort laugh as she tried to recall the last she was on a boat. She paused once more, making sure Jaikus safely joined her on the ledge before continuing onward.
She didn't forget him mentioning the path engine and seemed to know some details about her goal. "I am hoping to use some of their technology to advance my research." she jumped back to the Nihil Marauders and to avoid anymore conversation about boats and Captains named Tihsllub. "There is so much untapped potential, it just-" Tiamat paused, hearing the sound of falling stone nearby. The Force weaved through the canyon as her senses searched for potential danger, her blue eyes scanned carefully, but certain the sensation of caution grew in her mind.
Jaikus blinked a few times when Tiamat turned to face him, arching a brow suspiciously at the Sith Lord. After an extended period of time spent with Emryc, Jaikus was perfectly accustomed to receiving blank, deadpan stares – but this was something else entirely. He could practically see the cogs turning behind the woman’s eyes, as if she was trying to figure out what he had said. While Tiamat had certainly acted a bit odd during their journey to the planet, this was just downright weird.
The Axxilan narrowed his eyes a bit as he climbed the next ledge, listening as Tiamat chuckled. Even without looking at the woman’s face, Jaikus could tell there was nothing genuine about the sound – though he purposefully did not press the issue any further.
“Oh?” He perked up a bit, raising a brow. The Axxilan picked up the pace a bit, shifting to walk side-by-side with the Sith Lord. “How would you—” He paused abruptly, the sound of falling stones causing his attention and causing his citrine gaze to snap back to the canyon around him. He could feel ripples of…something through the Force – moving between the rock walls just beyond sight.
After a few moments, Jaikus slowly reached for the saber on his hip – though kept it unignited for the time being. His gaze traced the canyon for several moment more before abruptly nudging Tiamat, pointing ahead without speaking.
If the woman looked, she would catch glimpse of what looked to be a reptilian tail slithering over a ledge overhead – visible for only a few seconds before vanishing out of sight. The subtle sounds of movement could be heard above, indicating that whatever it was, the thing was getting closer.
Regardless of what was lurking, Tiamat didn't feel staying on the ledge of a canyon was wise as she felt Jaikus nudge her to look upward. It was just in time too as she caught a glimpse of what he noticed, a tail flickering over the side, leaving the imagination to ponder what was attached to the rest of it. The girl's brow narrowed, though unlike her partner in this soon misadventure, she didn't remove her saber and instead quickly found her footing to scale her way to the top. The redhead was more than ready to eliminate any obstacles that got in the way of her work.
She nearly reached the top when she begun to hoist herself over the ledge and she heard the chiming of her commlink knowing it was from her droid. She groaned under her breath and glanced down to see if Jaikus was following before pulling herself over the edge.
Luckily, the two sith would be in questionable company as several beings dressed in what looked to be a form of armor made from local flora were mounted on giant lizard beasts. Long weapons pointed at the Sith, it was difficult to tell if they were melee or a form of a rifle, but Tiamat assumed both as she opened her mouth to speak.
"Hi, hello, nice weather?" she started, uncertain one should say to hostile lizard riders, though before she or even Jaikus could say anymore another entered the group. He was older, looked nearly human and was dressed in a way that Tia thought he could be Jedi, though nothing in her senses told her he was a Force user. "Hi, we're just passing through, just backpacking honeymooners."
Jaikus kept his eyes narrowed in the direction of the sound for several more seconds, citrine eyes carefully scanning the ledges and ridges above them for any signs of movement or activity. He only caught a glimpse of the reptilian tail, but the Axxilan knew there was more to the sighting than simple – and the sounds echoing from above indicated that there was more of them – whatever they were – close by.
The Axxilan continued to stare down the canyon before eventually turning his gaze back to Tiamat, watching in silence as the Sith Lord began to scale towards the next ledge above. After a moment of observation Jaikus clipped the saber hilt back onto his hip and opted to follow after the woman, deciding that the danger – whatever it was – would be addressed later.
Without another word, Jaikus reached out and began to climb just behind Tiamat – grabbing onto the ledge and hoisting himself up as soon as Tiamat moved her ass out of the way.
Citrine eyes went a bit wide as the Axxilan crested over the edge and pulled himself onto the next level of the canyon, suddenly finding themselves surrounded by unknown – very hostile looking – individuals on giant lizards with long tails. If nothing else, at least that mystery was solved.
"Shit.." He muttered under his breath.
Almost instinctively, Jaikus began to slowly reach for the saber hilt that he clipped back to his hip before stopping himself. A quick glance at the number of locals, as well as the multiple of maybe-rifles pointed at them indicated that was a markedly bad idea.
Jaikus blinked a few times, staring at Tiamat with an almost dumbfounded expression when she proceeded to comment about the weather. His eyes narrowed slightly, but before he could say anything, his attention was drawn towards the older man who entered their little circle.
The man looked nearly human, albeit with several key differences about him. There were notable patches of greenish scales across his dark skin, and his yellow eyed were slitted in such a way that they resembled that of a snakes. The Axxilan glanced between the elder and Tiamat when the woman spoke again. As if to sell the story just a bit more, Jaikus proceeded to throw an arm around Tiamat’s shoulder and hug her affectionately.
The elder didn’t look amused.
“Come with us,” He said in a heavy accent, his words slurring in an almost serpentine manner. With that, the man turned back to the path ahead and began to walk away. A less-than-polite nudge from one of the lizard-riding locals with their weapons encouraged both of the Sith to follow.
There was almost relief that Tiamat felt when she noticed the look Jaikus had given her as she tried to improvise a cover for the both of them. Though she clearly needed to work on having a cover pre-planned for emergencies like this given Jaikus' immediate reaction was to embrace her. Tia never liked being touched, let alone being hugged without consent, however, the plus side they were not shot to death and now they were walking with the lizard hybrids to...well, hopefully not a sacrificial pit because that would have suddenly created too much work for this mission of hers.
Tia glanced to Jaikus, eyebrows slightly rising before stepping quickly prior to one of the riders getting a bit close to the Sith duo. At least in this so far, she didn't get the glare, though that didn't stop the feeling that Jaikus was probably going to tattle on their misadventure...if they got out of here alive. Internally, Tiamat rolled her eyes.
"Hey, so, where are we going? This is far from the trail we are supposed to be following. And we're going to need to check in with the guide center soon." She explained; her own senses reaching out to ensure they didn't have the Force also prior to trying any persuasive techniques.
"We are resssturning to our homessss." the elder leader spoke, glancing back at the pair. "Your guide isss of no consssscern now. You will ssssssoooon have a new one."
Tiamat frowned, "Wait...what?"
Their trek was not a long one as they were lead into a village, homes and other structures were made with a combination of organic material and alloys that looked as though they were stripped from a ship. The riders departed and they were flanked by a new group of armed reptilian hybrid people. Though they would be able to see the village commune seemed to be entirely fascinated with the newcomers as they stopped their work momentarily to watch. The elder seemed to take his pace with Jaikus, walking beside him, forcing Tia to walk behind.
"You and your...wife come at the perfesssct time. Tonight isss the eclipssse, and our godssss will blessss our landssss." he explained, leading them to a large enclosure meant for larger gatherings, "We cannot have anyone sssssoiling the landssss until it issss complete. Sssso you will sssstay."
Jaikus glanced towards Tiamat, eyes narrowed suspiciously at command from the random elder. Begrudgingly, he stepped along with the fellow Sith as one of the beast riders inched a bit too close for comfort, starting to walk towards.. Wherever the hell they were going. Of all the ways he thought this little adventure was going to go, being captured by lizard-people, who themselves were mounted on lizards, really wasn’t on the Axxilan’s bucketlist.
Without any other real options, Jaikus began to follow close next to Tiamat – citrine eyes cautiously glanced towards the beastriders that flanked them. While they were both fully capable Sith, Jaikus couldn’t deny that, given the numbers, trying to resist wasn’t likely to end in their favor.
His attention immediately snapped back when the elder mentioned backing a new guide. “Excuse me?” His own words were perfectly timed with Tiamat, citrine eyes very cautiously glancing back at her, then the elder, then her.
Jaikus was largely silent for the rest of the journey to the village, with most attempts at trying to small talk Grandpa-Lizard met with equally cryptic and not-particularly-useful responses. By the time they reached the settlement, the Axxilan had largely given up on that front.
The Axxilan didn’t miss the way that villagers all stopped to stare at them as they passed – as if they weren’t used to outsiders. As they continued on, Jaikus nudged Tia with his elbow, gesturing to what appeared to be ship salvage that was built right into homes and businesses alike. It just as easily would’ve been a coincidence, but weren’t they here for a ship in the first place?
Jaikus blinked a few times as the elder began to walk at the same pace, glancing back at Tiamat as she was sequestered to the back. He gave her a shrug as if to say ‘what do you want me to do?’ before turning his attention back to the elder. His eyes immediately narrowed when the man explained that they had arrived at the ‘perfect time’. It eluded that their arrival was somehow beneficial to whatever ritual was going to take place, and Jaikus promptly decided he wanted none of it.
“What does this ‘blessing of the lands’ entail, exactly?” He asked.
The moment the pair were led inside the large enclosure, Jaikus’ eyes narrowed a bit further. Despite being designed for large numbers of people, there was only the pair of Sith and the elder to be seen. A large table was set up in the middle of the room, two platters of food already having been set up for their arrival.
The next thing they would probably notice was the lack of exits. And the armored guards who now had taken position at the door.
Jaikus turned on a heel and faced the elder once more. “You know, our tour guide is still out on the trail,” His face was entirely serious -a bit of feigned concern even bleeding into his expression. “And I know they planned on camping out for the night back on the trail. Right, hun?" He looked to Tiamat, as if expecting her to back up his story. "Won’t he spoil the land? Perhaps we should leave,” He inched towards the exit smiling. “And go find him. So he won’t.. Uh.” He blinked. “Spoil the land.”
"Nonessssssenssse, relax, eat..." the lizard elder gestured to the plate of various roasted bugs and critters. Tiamat's gaze flickered to the trays and back to Jaikus before returning to the geriatric lizard who gestured again for them to take a seat. The redhead gave Jaikus one more look before deciding to take a seat, hoping the lizard would enlighten them about the blessing. Though the tray was both curious and unappetizing at the same time and left Tia a bit conflicted on whether she should reach over.
The lizard seeing at least one was interested spoke again, "The blessing of the land when the world darkens completely and we will be filled with the light of our goddess. It is a story that has been passed down for several millennia and this eclipse, we know it will be it."
Listening to the lizard, Tiamat had reached over to the tray, looking for something semi-edible, though as soon as she lifted a large veiny fruit, dozens of centipedes came scuttling off the plate. The lizard elder seemed unfazed by the bugs and his tongue shot quickly picking up several of the bugs and returning with a rippling crunching noise. A disgusted frown bowed on her face as she set down the fruit in front of her; though Tia immediately pushed her seat back as she realized the centipedes were going towards the table ledge. Her own legs lifting to allow the bugs run off the table and ready to swat any trying to get up her seat. If Jaikus was also seated, they would be running toward him also, seeming desperate to escape their potential fate.
"How do you know tonight is the night?" Tiamat asked.
The lizard picked up a piece of fruit, taking a bite, and speaking with a mouthful, "It hassss begun to glow warm, the stone of the goddesssss. We know time is near." he explained, pieces of fruit flying across the table from his mouth, other live bugs seemed to gravitate to the fruit pieces and the lizard quickly picked them up with his tongue.
"Can we see it?" Tiamat asked. With the integration of the ships and the rumors of the path engine specifics, she begun to wonder if it wasn't a piece of the engine itself. Though the knowledge of it glowing and warming, this goddess gift may be a bit unstable and ready to combust as soon as tonight it appeared. The lizard though was silent regarding her request, "You know, to see her beauty, her light before she disappears." Tia glanced to Jaikus, eyebrows raising to get him to push for them to see this stone of the goddess.