Ask Sword in the Stone

Cheriss Ktrame

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According to popular belief in the galaxy, the Acolytes of the Beyond no longer existed. From what was known to the general public, the cult that had proven so troublesome for the New Republic had all but collapsed by the time the First Order had been established.

But that was far from the truth.

Cheriss had heard whispers about a remnant on Ord Radama that still worshipped the Sith. They were smaller in number than what they used to be but just as zealous about their artifacts. After meeting with them, she quickly found out that the Acolytes wanted nothing less than the lightsaber of Sith Lord Darth Caldoth.

Only when it was presented to them would they agree to serve a new Master.

The lightsaber, the Acolytes said, was hidden on the nearby planet of Begeren in an ancient Sith temple. The temperate forest where it stood was where Cheriss and Cerberus were now. She’d asked for his help because she knew that he was observant, logical, and skilled— he’d more than proven that on Deysum. Even with her own prior experience with these kinds of places, Sith temples were unpredictable, and she needed someone she could rely on.

From the grassy clearing she stood in some distance from her ship, Cheriss could see the temple from here. Now she only needed to wait for Cerberus to arrive.

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It wasn't too unexpected that Cheriss contacted him again about another job. She was one of the few Sith he found competent and that seemed to understand him in some small way. Perhaps he even liked her a bit; of course, not enough to actually think about her outside of the times she contacted him, just enough to realise it when she did.

The other Sith he worked with? Most of them he found rather slow, or annoying. Some felt especially easy to manipulate, and he believed few realised exactly how much he'd been able to influence them. Either way, he had answered her message and agreed to help her again.

The Fanged landed not too far away from the established meeting location. Cebrerus was wearing his regular armour for this job. Although it would be obvious how new the armour was because he basically had to have it remade after Zoist.

Cheriss wasn't too hard to spot once he got close enough. He frowned slightly at her sight as he came to a stop in front of her. "I preferred you in a pure black outfit," he said bluntly. By now she probably realised he didn't give a kark if she felt insulted or uncomfortable about any of his comments. So regardless of how she behaved in reaction, he'd still speak his mind.

"Before we go anywhere, I need you to answer something. Do you understand that we will be putting ourselves in a lot of danger? Much more than the assassination. Even I may not be able to predict what we will encounter in there," he said plainly. Ancient Sith temples were nothing to be trifled with. Both of them could die. Cerberus knew this not just from experience, but from his studying. Though, part of him believed Cheriss absolutely understood the danger. She was no fool. However, it would be reckless of him not to ask and confirm that she did.

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Cheriss Ktrame

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In the clearing, Cheriss could hear the soft hiss of the landing gear on Cerberus’ ship as it touched down. Lowering the hood of her cloak, she turned in that general direction to soon find the other champion approaching. He wore different armor this time, she noticed— this set looked newer. Yet it made sense given it was a different kind of mission and a lot had happened since then.

As for her, she was wearing her standard armor set. Unfortunately it didn’t seem to be to Cerberus’ liking.

“Well, I’m sorry to disappoint you.” Cheriss smiled briefly at him before turning to glance at the temple. “The lightsaber should be in there. I don’t know where exactly, but it’s our best bet from what they’ve told us.”

But before they would head in, Cerberus made his concerns clear about what lay ahead. She could appreciate him being careful— it was part of why she’d asked for his help again.

“Yes.” Cheriss answered simply. “There are always dangers in places like this.” She’d been in tombs and temples before, and she remembered them all vividly thanks to the variety of physical and mental trials each had contained. This one would surely be no different. “But we are Sith. The dark side is strong here, and we can use it to our advantage.”

Even if it wasn’t much consolation, Cheriss expected that Cerberus had known the risks of what he was getting into when he’d accepted the job.

“Anyway, it’s not for the faint of heart. It’s not too late for you to turn back, unless…?” She raised her brow.

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Cerberus smiled, though very slightly, when she quipped back about her outfit. It didn't last long since his expression went back to its neutral default state when she continued.

He was glad to hear she understood the danger, though he had a comment of his own, "The Dark Side is a double edged sword. It is always something to be wary of, despite our use of it" he said plainly. Yes they could use it, or it could use them. Cerberus knew this all too well from many experiences, including the one clad in a durasteel case on his hip: the Vade Maecum. He knew it was basically a parasite, but it was one that he used in return.

Cheriss' last comment, to even Cerberus' surprise, caused him to chuckle for a couple moments. He even smirked at her despite her not being able to see it beneath his helmet. For a few fleeting heart beats his crimson red eyes fixated on her, amused. But, he said nothing in return to her verbally. His answer came from him beginning to take steps towards the temple's location.

While the temple was some distance away still, other debris and various structures were strewn about around it. Cerberus' crimson eyes laid quickly on two rows of eight foot masked statues, lining the broken cement path in front of them. Before his boots even got near the cement he briefly glanced over to Cheriss, waving his right hand towards the sight in front of them.

"I sense something off about those statues," he said, now eyeing a sword clutched between one of the statues hands. Really, if he didn't sense something off he'd still be able to notice that the sword the statue was holding looked real, despite the statue clearly looking like it was made of the same pour as the path in front of them.

He didn't make a suggestion about how to go forward this time. This time he wanted to see how Cheriss chose to proceed. Not just to continue to study her, but to see if she was only here for the lightsaber or to also explore regardless of the risk.

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Cerberus wasn’t wrong to be wary of the dark side, something they both understood could grant its users as much power as it could take. And although something in his choice of words told her that the mercenary knew more than he was letting on, Cheriss wouldn’t dwell on it for long.

“We’ll be careful,” she assured. It was the most they could do to not overuse the weapon they were given. Jedi, Sith, or anyone who had experience with the Force knew that it was more dangerous than any sword that had ever been forged.

Then, when she heard his brief chuckle at her last comment before his gaze lingered on her for a moment, she looked back at him with an amused, yet expectant expression. Only when he started toward the temple without a word was it her turn to smile. She soon turned to follow and and ended up walking alongside him.

They didn’t go far before they came across the two rows of statues. Judging from the contrast between the metallic shine of the swords and the dull concrete of the statues that held them, something wasn’t right here. Cerberus’ comment only reinforced that feeling.

“They could be enchanted.” Yet at this distance the statues in Kas’im’s tomb had already been activated and ready to fight. Testing them, she stepped a little closer, but still they didn’t move. Instead, as she walked up to the nearest one, she could glimpse an expression of panic behind its mask. Looking at the next one, that face looked more angry than anything, while a third had a countenance of twisted pain.

“These are incredibly detailed.” Cheriss marveled at the pieces in front of her, yet they were not just some artist’s masterpiece. They were, without a doubt, a Sith’s masterpiece. She could feel the Force permeating from them, and each statue felt distinctively different. That was strange.

“They almost feel… alive.” Then, she suddenly looked back at Cerberus as something struck her. “Darth Caldoth once turned his own apprentice into stone. You don’t think these statues have something to do with it?”

Almost as if in answer, both Sith would suddenly be filled with the sensation of pure fear as the eyes of the first statue seemed to look down at them. Leave, a voice spoke in their minds, before it’s too late.

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His crimson eyes followed Cheriss to the broken walkway before he walked to her side again. To him it was interesting that she chose to walk up to the statues. It was somewhat reckless, however they were still on the outside and had a lot of room to fight if they needed to.

Enchanted? Maybe, he thought, eyeing up the details on the large figures in front of them too. He remained quiet still when she pointed out how "alive" they felt. She was right, and he didn't know about Darth Caldoth, which he noted. He didn't like gaps in his knowledge, so this Darth was someone he needed to study later.

Then it happened: projected fear, a voice in his mind. The Vade Maecum reacted to it as well, unhappy with what it sensed. The tome whispered back, loudly into Cerberus' mind, momentarily drowning out the fear. Cerberus clutched his head with both hands until the projection of fear and whispering stopped.

A deeply angry grunt left his clenched jaw; he was very unhappy with what just occurred.

Cerberus stared at the statue defiantly. At first he wanted to react quickly to his anger and lash out, though stopped himself to think, still not answering Cheriss' question about the Darth because he was mulling over what had just happened.

After, one of his hands reached to the durasteel case on his belt, unclipping it. His other hand unlocked the case, opening it to reveal the red, black and golden tome that glittered in the sunlight, the bright rays reflected on it antithetical to the darkness that it emanated. It was almost a black void in the Force, darker than even Cerberus himself.

His right hand opened the book, to what would look like a blank page to Cheriss. Only someone Force Bonded to the Vade Maecum could see what was written on the pages. He hovered his right hand over it the tome. "Can you tell me what these are?" he spoke towards it. At this point, he wasn't paying much attention to Cheriss or however she reacted to what he was doing.

What would look like the book moving itself, several more pages flipped, the rustling of pages the only thing heard until it stopped on one. Cerberus crimson eyes scanned over it. These appear to be Dark Side entities infused into what were formerly humanoid bodies, he projected to Cheriss, Destroying the statues should destroy them. They cannot exist in this world without these forms intact. It says here that they're likely to absorb most abilities powered by the Dark Side, so if they attack I suggest using our lightsabers unless you have a better idea.

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Cheriss Ktrame

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The fear that projected into her body overwhelmed her senses for a moment. Her fingers went cold and goosebumps rose as her heartbeat and breathing quickened, yet she felt frozen in the initial shock of it even though it wasn’t as bad as that time on Ziost. When Cheriss finally realized it was coming from the statue she recoiled, glaring up at it like Cerberus did. It looked no different as it always had, yet somehow it seemed to be ever the more sentient.

Before she did anything though, she saw Cerberus taking out what appeared to be a book out of a case. Its presence distracted her somewhat from the statues. Even just standing nearby she felt a deep darkness emanate from it, at this proximity somehow even more poignant than that of the temple itself. How interesting.

He soon opened the book to a blank page and asked it a question, further piquing her curiosity. Inclining her head slightly to get a better look, she watched as the book flipped itself to another blank page. Then, she heard Cerberus’ voice in her head stating that these statues were dark side entities infused into formerly humanoid bodies… that would explain why they felt so alive.

Yet even as he detailed how they might be destroyed, Cheriss hesitated at the thought of doing so. They knew little about these statues— who had made them, how the entities had infused inside them, and how they had projected such raw emotion. Even if it seemed unimportant and even potentially dangerous to keep them intact, she was curious as to their origin and their potential uses.

If they attack, she responded to Cerberus telepathically. Otherwise they could be worthy of future study. For now these statues posed no physical threat, so she saw no need to destroy them yet. They could just be here for the purpose of scaring away non-Sith from the temple, after all.

Turning away from the statues that did not attack for now, Cheriss made her way further down the concrete path without a word. There she found herself at the entrance of the temple, where she no longer felt the presence of the entities. Strangely enough, the doors of the temple were already open, but the familiar call of the dark side came from within.

“The Acolytes had better not been lying,” Cheriss muttered under her breath. Hopefully she and Cerberus would find the lightsaber in here, because if this temple was anything like the others she had visited and the blade was absent, she would personally go back to that cult and slaughter all of them herself.

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Cerberus wasn't sure how worth studying they were, considering he had the forumla for them within the Vade Maecum. Either way, he proceeded with Cheriss quietly for the moment.

It wasn't all too surprising to see the doors already open. There was a very high likelihood that others had been here before, leaving the doors open as they rushed out or went in and perished.

One other thing stuck out to Cerberus, "At least from the outside, this temple looks in fairly good shape. If we can clear it out... maybe we can report it and have it put back in use," he said, now caring less about this lightsaber, although he would do his best to help her retrieve it if it was here. This planet was very close to Sith space as well. Well, recently conquered Sith space. More room for more to train never hurt, nor did it hurt to have another resting place or location to store knowledge.

To say the least, Cerberus was now more interested in what they were doing here. Maybe that was the reason he did not charge Cheriss today-- the Force had helped guide him here to expand the power of the Order and therefore his religion. Which was probably another thing Cheriss did not know about him: how deeply religious he was.

The half zeltron Sith's boots clicked against the stairs, Radama's air breezing past his dark form until he walked by the temple's threshold. Right away he felt a shift as he entered; while he sensed the Dark Side outside of it, it was even more potent in the temple.

And so was the sense of danger.

With a snap-hiss Cerberus' lightsaber hilt was brought to his hand and ignited into the temple air, its eerie red glow lighting up the floor around him. All he could do was sense danger until he could see it, at least some of it. Two dog-like Sithspawn. Cerberus drew on his master-level speed, dashing forward and cutting the heads clear off the two creatures. "Keep your senses out for more," he hissed, convinced there would be a good amount throughout the temple, likely some larger, much more ferocious and difficult to cull unless they had already been disposed of by earlier explorers.

As he came to a halt, he heard multiple sounds. First, the whining and click of the front doors closing shut and locking on their own, then several sounds of rushing fire. His crimson eyes dashed to watch blue, unnatural looking fire appear in the middle of several lamps around the foyer--the large room past the temple's doors. The ceiling seemed so far up that Cerberus could never dream of making the leap to the top, yet the largest lamp at the the very peak of it lit with the fire too.

Throughout the foyer there were many paths to take. Four stairwells that spiralled upwards. Multiple corridors on each side, and two stairways that lead down. He hadn't been aware the temple extended into the ground, and he could sense even more danger from the stairways that lead down.

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Cheriss paused to assess the appearance of the temple when Cerberus brought up its current state. Despite the mess of roots and vines around it, the structure itself was in decent shape and she agreed that it had potential for future use. After a moment, she nodded.

“We could,” she replied. “Hopefully the interior isn’t too damaged.” Though that remained to be seen. Cheriss made her way up the stairs alongside her partner, and almost as soon as they stepped through the doorway she sensed danger ahead.

Her own lightsaber came to life as she spotted the two Sithspawn that came out of the dark. Though Cerberus took care of them quickly, the feeling that they weren’t alone didn’t go away, and she didn’t need to be told to keep her guard up as she heard the door close behind them and the foyer’s lamps were lit on their own with eerie blue flames.

Yet there was no use lingering here, and the foyer offered many paths to take. The stairways that led down felt the most dangerous, but the dark side also felt stronger there. The energy from an artifact like a Sith Lord’s lightsaber would surely draw the larger, stronger creatures, so that was likely their best bet.

“Let’s go down.” Cheriss glanced at Cerberus as she stepped around the headless carcasses of the two Sithspawn and toward one of the staircases. As she went down the spiral steps, using her saber to light the way, the sense of danger only increased.

At the bottom, she once again heard the whoosh of flame as the corridor’s lamps were lit by the same blue fire. This corridor wasn’t long, however, and a large open room that appeared to be an arena greeted her at the end. At the sight she extinguished her blade for now, just in case something might see her coming. Lit with flickering blue light, the Sith was able to make out dozens of humanoid skeletons laying on the ground inside. They would have to cross it in order to get to the corridor on the other side.

It wouldn’t have been an issue if not for more Sithspawn. They looked to be of similar size to the dogs that Cerberus had killed, though these were perched on the top of the bleachers on either side of the room. With bat-like wings and teeth like small daggers, she wouldn’t be surprised if these creatures were responsible for the bones on the sandy ground ahead.

Fortunately, they hadn’t spotted or sensed the Sith yet. Cheriss didn’t say a word out loud or telepathically just in case they could hear or sense it. Instead, she waited to see what Cerberus’ reaction would be before she did anything.

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Cerberus followed her down the stairwell, pressing the trigger on his lightsaber to turn it off but not returning his hilt to his belt. Every step they took downwards, the sense of darkness grew stronger, and so did the sense of danger. Cerbrus started to get the idea that they were slowly heading towards something very dangerous.

As soon as his partner stopped, so did Cerberus, although while her eyes steadied upward on the Sithspawn, his eyes went downward when he heard another click. This time the click was faint, but sharper, shorter, before several other clicks echoed throughout the corridor, sounding like turning gears which sent familiar alarm bells off in his mind.

Without thinking further, Cerberus turned around on the balls of his heels, stretching out his left arm and wrapping it around Cheriss' stomach unless she managed to best his speed or stop him. If successful he’d bring her with him as he dashed quickly back to the bottom of the stairwell. He was taller than her and much stronger due to his gender, his obsessiveness with working out every day and how much he monitored his food intake. While his body was scarred from war it's form was similar to a perfecly carved out statue, and she'd likely be able to feel the impact of his muscles hardness even through her armour.

Only after reacting he questioned why his first instinct was to try to save her... reminding himself that she wasn't paying him, but he pushed aside the thought for now. If he had managed to grab her, he'd let go of her when they got to the bottom of the stairwell, only to look back to see dozens of arrows rain down on the spot they were standing before.

"There's trap triggers all over the floor," he pointed out, jutting his chin towards hundreds of tiles sticking slightly higher out of the floor than others. His eyes trailed along the floor until they stopped at one tile sunk in. It was probably the tile one of them stepped on to activate the arrow trap.

Cerberus' red eyes then moved to the creatures that started to fly towards them, the wind between their flapping wings echoing throughout the corridor, but his eyes did not stop at that. His crimson gaze lowered again when he sensed the Darkside swell in the middle of the corridor; the bones of the dead began to twist in the swell of the DarkSide. Their bones moved together and turned, and then they started to stumble to their feet.

"Kodel Zhol Buti Kirass vaille?!" Cerberus growled between his teeth in his mother tongue: Sith common. He hadn't wanted to see another undead for years after Zoist and now here he was. His anger manifested into a crackling force around his left hand, enough to make a regular person's hair stand on end. Reaching out with his hand, he sent his rage, manifested now into Force Lightning, towards a group of the undead, disintegrating some of the bones. He reignited his lightsaber at the same time, preparing for the winged and fanged Sithspawn's arrival.

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Cheriss Ktrame

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As she was figuring out the best way to cross the arena in case the Sithspawn might attack, Cerberus’ abrupt spin back caught Cheriss off guard. “What are you—”

More confusing was his arm around her stomach before she could finish and his sudden closeness as he grabbed her. She could feel his muscular form through both of their armor, but she didn’t resist as he raced toward the foot of the staircase. It was only when he released her and she was free to turn around that she saw the rain of arrows slamming into the ground below.

Even as Cerberus mentioned the trap triggers, it took a heartbeat for the shock to wear off before she could nod to acknowledge his observation. Not because of the arrows and that sunken tile that she should have seen coming, but because Cerberus had decided to save her instead of leaving her there like most other Sith would have. She glanced at his visor, but she didn’t have much time to dwell on it before the screeches of incoming Sithspawn reached her ears and she saw the bones forming into undead skeletons right in front of them. She didn’t blame Cerberus for his frustration, because she too had had enough of the undead for a while.

“Lucky us.” Cheriss reactivated her lightsaber as the undead approached, and as Cerberus disintegrated some with lightning she threw her blade, cutting and burning through the bones of some more.

But soon the Sithspawn arrived down the hall with their black wings beating and their fanged mouths shrieking. They wouldn’t hear hers. In response, Cheriss lifted her free hand, gathered her frustration and rage, and concentrated it into a ball of flame that appeared in her palm. She sent it flying into the incoming Sithspawn, and a few of them dropped onto the tiled floor of the corridor with their bodies aflame.

It was only when she heard something rushing again that she remembered the trap triggers. Without much thought, Cheriss snatched Cerberus’ forearm and attempted to pull him with her as she dashed up some of the steps. She didn’t need to look back to feel the heat of flames behind her or to see the walls dancing with blue light, but she only stopped and let him go once it all faded away.

The corridor was still visible from below, and the floor, walls, and even parts of the ceiling were charred from the Sithspawn being burned alive. A few smoldering bones were left scattered on the floor, and it was eerily quiet now. But they’d been spared the grisly fate thanks to the safety of the stairs, at least.

“You still think this place is salvageable?” She glanced at Cerberus.

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Right at the moment he felt her touch on his arm, a small flare of anger shot through his mind and his body reacted in kind. It was his first instinct. His arm twitched before he was able to process it was Cheriss who grabbed him. Not an enemy, at least not as far as he was aware.

He was not used to being grabbed without permission unless it was to hurt him, at least while he was conscious. The last time someone grabbed him it was to punch him repeatedly in the face. At least Cerberus was able to land a pretty hard punch back, and he had every intention of returning all the other punches some day. (@throwitintothefire)

Crimson eyes gazed along the corridor behind them once they stopped. Cheriss' question mulled in his mind before he answered, "Perhaps. I sense something incredibly dangerous deeper in this tunnel. These traps might've been put into place because of whatever that thing is. Maybe the traps are a way to stop or weaken it if tries to escape, or maybe they're just to protect it from people like us stealing it and it's not sentient," he paused to tap his pointer finger against his chin, although it would only be against his helmet.

"It could be that the rest of the temple, or most of it, is not laced with this many traps if these ones have a reason to be here besides killing the curious," he said, thinking out loud now. "I'd like to explore more of this temple before we proceed further down here. We might be able to find some answers to help us navigate through it a little more safely."

Those crimson eyes of his then made their way back to Cheriss, fixating on her, "You returned the favour," he added after. "I'm surprised." It was a plain but honest remark about her trying to help him after he saved her.

He wasn't expecting a verbal answer from her despite commenting on it, and she wouldn't get a thank you because Cerberus wasn't big on manners that he didn't think were needed. He did however want to see her expression, especially since he could study hers and she did not have the same luxury with him with his helmet on.

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Cheriss followed Cerberus’ gaze down the corridor they’d just been in. He was right— even after activating the traps, disintegrating the undead, and burning the Sithspawn, she could still sense something even more dangerous further in.

“Let’s hope it’s the latter.” That was all she would say in regards to what it could possibly be because if these already overkill traps were only meant to weaken something that might escape, Cheriss wasn’t keen on potentially having to face it in combat. Even with Cerberus at her side.

The second point he made seemed to have a better outcome, and Cheriss did recall the upper levels of the temple feeling less dangerous than this one. So she nodded when he suggested exploring elsewhere before they would proceed down the corridor.

Then, at his last remark, Cheriss could only shrug. Even though his eyes were hidden behind his visor, she could feel him looking at her.

“Now we’re even.” She gave him a nonchalant smile before heading up the stairs again. Soon the pair were back in the foyer, left with just one less option from the many that they’d had earlier. Neither the ground nor the upper level felt more or less dangerous than they had been when they had arrived, so Cheriss assumed that whatever they’d done in the lower level hadn’t affected them. At least not in a way that they could sense at the moment.

“Anywhere in particular interest you?” Cheriss wouldn’t admit it out loud but she had picked to go down last time, and they had nearly died twice. So this time she trusted Cerberus to make a better decision… even if it really came down to luck.

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So Cheriss was soft then, something Cerberus could exploit if he wanted to but chose not to today. "We don't need to be even. I'm used to being hired help, so I reacted accordingly when I heard the trap spring. Don't expect it in the future," he said plainly, now that he had time to think about it. It wasn't said with a rude tone. Most of the time when he lectured someone, it wasn't meant as an insult, even though most of them likely took it that way. He was simply speaking his mind as he usually did.

An echoed clicking filled the winding stairwell until they arrived back at the main floor. There Cheriss spoke again which Cerberus reacted to by moving his gaze towards one of corridors to the left side of them. "There," he said, guessing. There wasn’t much thought put into it because they didn’t have much to go off besides “downstairs bad”.

His feet moved again, this time towards the new chosen path. "I'd like to find the library, or maybe an office where there could be a datapad or book or something with helpful information," he said, mulling over his thoughts again. So far as they walked, nothing charged at them and tried to attack, although this time the lamps were not lighting with the strange blue fire so he lifted his hand and summoned a small ball of fire of his own above it.

While the problem of the lack of light was easily solved, this made Cerberus wonder why the lamps here were not working. They'd need to be repaired or replaced if they planned on using this temple again.

Unluckily, or maybe luckily, there was no large opening to a library here, but Cerberus did notice that there were several doors lining the hallway as they walked further into it. He decided to stop at one–the largest door so far with ornate markings around it–pressing the panel beside it. The panel didn't beep in reaction and the door didn’t open. This whole section of the temple seemed pretty dead. He let his fireball vanish so he could use the Force to open the door instead, revealing what looked like someone's personal quarters.

A big bed, a tableside, a large desk, lamps, paintings on the wall, clothes strewn about, a few creates and more were placed about. It obviously wasn't an acolytes room since it was so large and filled with more than a newcomer would likely be permitted to bring to a temple. He took steps into it once he got a good look, first choosing to rummage through the desk for some clue to who this room used to belong to.

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Now that they were out of direct danger, that cool response of his was more like the Cerberus she knew back on Deysum. She took it as it was, because in the grand scheme of things neither of them was responsible for the other. Although given that they were allies for the time being, she would still watch his back while they were here.

Once the path was chosen, Cheriss followed Cerberus down the hallway, this time noticing that the blue fire didn’t follow them. The atmosphere was quite different from the lower level too— while the dark side was still present, it didn’t feel as strong. Maybe that was why there were no Sithspawn out to attack them, or maybe even why the fire wasn’t working.

At his comment about the library, Cheriss nodded once. “I agree. A place like that might give us some idea of what’s down there.” But the first place they came across was not a library, but what looked like a bedroom. As Cerberus went to the desk, Cheriss walked over to the crates in the corner.

At first glance they looked hastily packed, and the first few that she opened were mainly full of the same clothing strewn over the floor. Cheriss picked up a tunic, the embroidery indicating that it likely belonged to someone wealthy or high-ranking. The material was as soft as silk too, and she set that aside as something else caught her eye.

Stuffed into the same container as the tunic was the corner of a book. When she carefully took it out, she noticed that the cover was in the Sith language. Spells and Incantations, it read. As she looked further into the container and others around it, she found more books about alchemy, witchcraft, and even dark side entities.

“It looks like they may have been a sorcerer from the type of reading they were doing.” Cheriss put the books down before making her way over to the bed. It looked hastily made upon closer inspection. “I wonder what made them leave in such a rush.”

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Cerberus

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Cerberus' eyes didn't leave the desk he was rummaging through, nor did he speak even while Cheriss made a few comments. Nevertheless, he was listening to her. It did appear that she somewhat understood him and his personality, possibly enough that she'd pick up on the fact he wasn’t ignoring her, just being himself.

One of the drawers of the desk squeaked slightly as he yanked it open, revealing a book. The cover was dusty and blank. When Cerberus picked it up and opened it, to his surprise, the words were handwritten. This was odd considering most used datapads and other devices, even back then, to type their personal experiences or journals; handwriting was something quite primitive.

Either way, it was written in an older version of basic so Cerberus could follow along well enough as he scanned his crimson eyes down the paper quietly, flipping between pages. "It was a woman, a master who ran classes in the temple, or so she claims."

Cerberus read and flipped through a few more pages, "She wrote that there were secret experiments taking place in the lower floors that concerned her. Apparently a lot of odd things happened in the temple that she equates to those experiments. She seems to dwell on one event the most. Some, as she put it, "translucent creatures" rose up from the foyer floors and killed multiple acolytes, one that was her star student. That seems to be the trigger that pushed her to start investigating what exactly was happening below the temple."

“During her investigation, no one would speak to her about what was happening below. Only days after she started was she pulled into the office of the Sith who ran the temple and commanded to stop asking about the experiments,"
he said with a grunt. That was disappointing to read.

He was hoping this journal had way more answers, irregardless he kept reading. "Mm, but she still left us some useful information. She goes on to complain that she suspected the head Sith knew exactly what was happening, and went into detail about how she planned to break into his office and look around. Looks like he had the 'nicest office on the top floor, overseeing the entrance of the temple.’ Let's head there."

The halfbreed turned back to Cheriss, although he did not drop the book. Instead he chose to put it into a pouch on his belt. There was a lot more to read in it. Maybe this woman had more useful knowledge, besides the experiments that apparently took place below.

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Cheriss Ktrame

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It was a sorceress that this room belonged to then, and she’d written some interesting things in her journal. Cheriss listened quietly as Cerberus relayed the details about translucent creatures, dead acolytes, and secret experiments. Yet the book opened up more questions than they answered. Among them were what had prevented the master from breaking into the head Sith’s office, and how her room had ended up like this.

After Cerberus made the suggestion to head up to the office on the top floor, Cheriss nodded. “There may be some kind of log up there that can tell us what the experiments were and if they had anything to do with those creatures you mentioned.” Though maybe not since the experiments were secret, that remained to be seen.

Once she saw that Cerberus had put the book in his pouch, Cheriss made her way back to the foyer and then the spiral staircase going up. As she started to climb, she noticed the transparisteel window that looked into the office, though it seemed to be polarized. They would have to get in to get a better view, then.

The office was directly to the left of the staircase when she got up, and unlike the other room, the panel for this door was alive and blinking. It also meant that the door was locked when Cheriss tried to press the button. That wouldn’t prove a problem for long, however, as she ignited her saber and slashed it insead. The door opened then, revealing the room inside.

This room, unlike the other parts of the temple they’d explored so far, was lit by electric lights on the ceiling. It was furnished with an ornate desk that had a computer on top, a chair behind and in front of it, bookshelves, and file cabinets. Once she’d checked for any potential threats, Cheriss went to the cabinets, opening one to see what might be inside.

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Cerberus

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So far there were no other creatures. It was possible most of them were slain by others, or most of them dwelled under the temple; the few they encountered may have found a way out of the “dungeon”, up into the floors above. However for now Cerberus put those thoughts aside, stepping into the office.

It was obvious this office was held by someone high up. The fact that it was still lit up by electric lights was interesting. Not that it wasn't possible that other explorers had managed to replace a battery or repair something so the lights were now functioning in this area of the temple.

Of course the first place Cerberus was drawn to were the bookshelves. They were like a beacon to him, and he was a fly. He could not resist their existence. Going from book to book, he read the covers of most. Many were in basic, some were not. While he was not fluent in every language, languages were somewhat his speciality considering his hobby.

There were a few books he was very keen on taking, grabbing each as Cheriss looked through the cabinets that might have many more answers than these books had about the temple. That was when the dreaded click happened again, just as Cerberus was pulling out a book. The book wouldn't come out all the way, and that was because it was connected to a contraption.

Cerberus let go of the book right away, jumping back. He was ready for anything but... all that happened was the bookshelf popped about an inch out of the wall, then slid to the right revealing a door and a stairwell that went down.

Secret experiments and now a secret door, he thought to himself. Obviously, it appeared the two were connected. "Have you found anything?" he asked Cheriss.

Now the pair had a choice. If Cheriss still hadn't found anything, they could go through the door now anyway, or wait and look through the office more before daring to go beneath the temple again.

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Cheriss Ktrame

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Opening up the first file cabinet drawer, Cheriss was surprised to find not files, but datapads. A few of them still seemed to be working. Though she was no expert in technology, she did have technometry at her side. Taking one of the datapads, she concentrated the Force on the device in her hand, allowing her to bypass multiple of the passwords. When the information she was looking for appeared on the screen, she swiped through.

“This is a log… of people,” Cheriss said with a frown. “The page is titled ‘Preferred Candidates.’” Faces of men and women stared back at her as she went through each of their files. “They all have similar profiles. They were measured on combat ability and mental fortitude.” She paused for a moment to look over the list. “The top candidates have noticeably lower scores in their fortitude ratings.” But as she tried to see more, she was locked out yet again by another set of passwords.

That was when she heard the click coming from Cerberus’ side of the room, and she immediately put the datapad into her pocket and reached for her saber. Fortunately, it turned out to be a door and not more creatures. Walking over to Cerberus, Cheriss came to a stop at his side.

“Only what I’ve told you,” she answered his question before her eyes lingered on the door and the stairwell behind it. “But I have a feeling we’ll find more answers down there than we could ever hope to in here.” With that, she glanced at him one more time before heading down the staircase.

This staircase, though lit by the same lanterns of blue fire, was longer than any of the others than they’d been on already. From the way the dark side seemed to get stronger at its base, she figured that they were on the bottom floor again. But this was not the same place that they’d encountered the traps before. Instead, a corridor lined with doors stretched from left to right, and in front of them was a room with a structure that looked like an altar.

On top of it was a lightsaber hilt. From the energy that emanated from it, Cheriss knew that it was the one she was looking for.

But then she noticed what looked like pale mist begin to seep up through the cracks in the floor. Before her very eyes it began to form shapes, shapes of beings and of creatures alike.

“I think these might be the translucent creatures she was writing about,” she said cautiously.

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Cerberus

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So the experiments were being done on the students here, possibly on higher ranking Sith too but he highly doubted that. Cheriss' suggestion to keep going made sense, so he followed, though he chose to unclip his red-bladed lightsaber hilt from his belt and kept a keen eye on the floor and their surroundings for any more traps.

The alter in the room they entered snatched his attention right away, including a few dozen idols that sat around it, mixed in with the hilt. That only caught his attention for so long because his red eyes snapped instantly to the mist as it began to raise from the floor, swirling slowly into shapes. The way they took form was similar to how the Sith teacher had written and so Cerberus was already somewhat aware of what was happening before Cheriss spoke.

"Do not make direct contact with them," he said. He was not entirely sure if that was dangerous or not, or how exactly these creatures worked, but he doubted it would do the pair of Sith any good to get in direct contact with the mist, especially risking breathing it in.

His hand shot up and he sent a violent wave of Force towards the mist, forcing it to swirl back and clash against, and some going through, the wall behind it. This delayed them from taking form... somewhat, as after the mist began to move faster. "I can try to keep them from fully forming as you grab that hilt," he said. Cerberus needed some time to try to think of how to deal with these creatures, because this temple couldn't function if they were able to roam and attack anyone they wanted.

"Do me a favour and smash one of those idols on that altar while you're there," he added, perhaps to Cheriss' dismay. He needed to know why those idols were there. If they had any connection to the creatures, to something else, or if they were just for display. It was a risk to tamper with the alter, but the possibility of getting rid of these creatures was more important. As he spoke he sent another violent wave of Force towards the creatures. Soon after, with a raise of an eyebrow, he realised even more mist was rising from another side of the room.

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