Ask The Path to Balance: Perspective

Izel Thral

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Izel ducked alongside Yulie when Isen leapt over the hssiss, although she did not completely drop to her belly. The Vratix maintained her view on the ravine, slowly rising again to watch as the reptile kept it's focus squarely on the young Kiffar. Seeing the ease with which her apprentice was able to evade the beast calmed her nerves. It was clearly too weak to put up the fight some of it's ancestors from legend would have. That gave Isen a larger advantage. Still... It would be unwise to underestimate the creature just yet.

After turning around to face Isen once more the hssiss growled angrily. It's eyes fixed him with all it's hate, frustration and desire to feed. When the Padawan tossed the ration pack towards him the reptile reflexively took a step back. It appeared to be at least somewhat familiar with sentients, and likely suspected some kind of projectile being thrown at it. As the ration hit the ground it's tongue slipped out curiously to taste the air.

The beast lowered it's eyes to the ration for just a moment before snapping back to Isen again. It's mind would give off the sense that it's anger had dissipated only slightly, a hint of confusion peeking through. Slowly the beast stalked forward, still growling and focusing on the young Jedi. As it drew close enough to the ration it would slowly start to lower it's head, still keeping a suspicious eye on Isen. For just a few seconds it took it's eyes off him, tongue flicking out again to taste the pack. It hesitated a moment more, then violently snapped the thing up. As it brought it's head up to swallow Isen would be able to see another detail. Starting at the underside of the beast's jaw and running down it's neck was the distinct scar from carbon scoring. The beast had most definitely encountered sentients before, and apparently things had not gone well.

Up on the ridge Izel's antennae twitched again as she took notice of the scar herself. She took a brief glance around the ravine, reaching out with her Force sense to feel if any other predators were nearby. There were none as far as she could tell. Looking back towards the beast a picture of it's story started to form in her mind, looking towards her Padawan she wondered if he would come to the same conclusion as her.

Meanwhile the hssiss had been momentarily satiated by the offering of food, but the moment it had snapped it up it turned it's attention back to Isen. It growled again, still clearly hostile, and began to circle slowly around him. It wasn't attacking again just yet, but it still seemed to view him as prey.

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Isen Ramm

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As the dragon considered the food ration, Isen thought about what all he had seen. While the beast surely hated him, that was to be expected. But what he did not expect was what appeared to be the remnants of being shot by a blaster bolt. That would account for the reason that the animal recoiled at the tossing of the ration. This animal had been around sentients before and they mistreated him if Isen figured correctly. The hatred in the animal was further fueled by fear, an emotion that was rarely experienced by the apex predator on an almost completely barren landscape. That would make an already difficult task all the more difficult.

The hssiss did finally take the food, but it didn't seem to do much to gain Isen any favor. Once he snapped it up, he was still very much ready to eat Isen. Isen rubbed his hands together nodding at the lizard. "Playing hard to get, are we?" He was trying to convince himself he could still this. As the hssiss starting circling him, sizing him up, Isen would not turn to stay face to face with the beast. Instead, he would close his eyes and really focus on trying to connect to the creature.

He could sense great fear, great hunger, and all of this was stacked on top of the already Dark Side presence aura that filled the hssiss. Of course, this was fairly dangerous territory for Isen. Simply being on the planet, a Force sensitive person would be filled with the unmistakable pull and push of the Dark Side in an attempt to mold that person to its liking. Trying to bond with a living manifestation of that dark energy.

To no surprise, the Dark Side was tempting Isen as well. Just kill it....He will never see reason....End his suffering... Not only did Isen have to protect himself from succumbing to the Dark Side, but he still had the taming to do. No small task. Isen again tried to send his own aura of emotion to the dragon. The animal would not be able to understand words he figured, but Isen hoped he would be able to understand intent. So, Isen sent a multitude of intents and emotions. He would try to telepathically let this hssiss know that the padawan was absolutely confident and unafraid of the dragon and that attacks would be futile. He would pair that with messages of benevolence, the idea that he had no intention of bring harm to the creature. Finally, he would try to communicate that he would trust the Dark Side dragon to not attempt to bring any harm to Isen. Isen didn't believe that, but he wanted to the beast to believe it.

To that end, Isen knew that by not rotating and staying turned toward the lizard as he circled, at some point the beast would be to Isen's back. Isen's eyes were close, his mind desperately trying to keep the energy of the planet at bay so he could he stay laser-focused on placement of the hssiss and its emotions.

He was fairly sure if that if the lizard charged, he would be able to sense it and avoid the danger again....fairly sure.


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Yulie held her breath while the lizard studied its unexpected meal. The most peaceful path out of the ravine was through the beast's stomach, but if it decided to hedge its bets on larger prey, there weren't many other paths that Yulie could see. Izel wanted its student to look beyond harmful solutions and instead connect with the creature, but what if the Hssiss refused him?

She put herself in Isen's boots and thought about how she might approach this test. The instructor made it clear to not harm the creature, but scaring it off or browbeating it into submission also felt opposed to the purpose of this exercise. Lacking the confidence to face it head-on, Yulie defaulted to withdrawing from the showdown, evading them until she found herself in a more favorable locale. This, she decided, was not helpful here. An animal of that size was surely faster, stronger, and far better suited to its environment. But what if she had Isen's prowess?

If she regarded the Hssiss as a Sith, Izel had advised to observe before engaging it and to choose an environment where its weaknesses could be exploited. Yulie had no way of knowing if Isen had done so before leaping into the ravine, but she presumed that he had. Perhaps the angles of the ravine limited the monster's mobility? The advantages of this environment were less obvious to her, but if Isen could leap like that whenever he wanted, he could spring around this deep wound in Ambria's crust until the creature tired itself out and lost interest in the hunt. Would Dun Möch be helpful here? She was unclear on how that Technique actually worked, but if the Hssiss tired out quicker...

...And then it gobbled up the meal almost instantly. Well...so much for that idea. Yulie thought to herself. Not only did the meal fail to pacify the thing, the creature now had some more energy to run amok through the ravine and it was more focused on its prize than before. Izel's teachings began to fade from Yulie's mind as she found only dead-ends waiting on the paths she thought might lead to a peaceful resolution.

Putting herself in Isen's boots didn't amount to much. In her mind's eye, she pictured herself offering the Hssiss the very kindness of a lightsaber that Isen once spoke of. Isen had not even reached for his. Instead, he was just...standing there, allowing himself to be circled by a hungry predator. Yulie exhaled nervously. I know your teacher said to be patient and get a feel for the creature, but this is a little extreme, don't you think?

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Izel Thral

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Yulie was not the only one caught off-guard by Isen's passive behavior. The hssiss continued to stalk around to the Padawan's side in an attempt to get behind him, but realizing he was no longer following it's movements the creature stopped in it's tracks for a few moments. It's tongue flicked out and tasted the air again. Puzzled, the beast turned and started stalking once more, making a complete circle before ending up in front of Isen again. Noticing the Jedi's eyes were closed was something completely unexpected to the animal. It growled, trying to evoke a reaction, and then slowly began to sidle closer.

Above Izel leaned forward, antennae twitching as she sensed everything going on that Yulie could not see. Isen was still attempting to bond with the hssiss. The creature's mental walls would not be so difficult to pierce as a sentient's, but it was deeply immersed in it's fear and hate. It did seem however that the Padawan was getting through, slowly but surely.

Below, the hssiss cautiously inched closer and closer to Isen, flicking it's tongue out periodically. It clearly was unfamiliar with such a response, and the feelings radiating from the young Jedi were leaving it at a loss for how to reply. It could tell Isen was confident, not afraid. The creature had sensed this in other sentients in the past, but what really threw it for a loop was the Padawan's projected intent. He seemed to have no intentions of harming it, and that the creature did not understand at all. The hssiss grew frustrated, not receiving the usual reaction it expected. It was still afraid, now seemingly too afraid to attack again. Instead it drew to within just an arm's length of Isen and let out another powerful roar, right in his face. It wanted to frighten him. It needed him to be afraid, or else the beast itself would not have the confidence to attack this completely calm and uninterested creature.

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Isen Ramm

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The hssiss was easy to follow for Isen, even with his eyes closed. He could sense the dragon making his way around, inching closer as he did. The confusion from the lizard was plain. The beast anticipated Isen being scared. Running as prey would run, or at least preparing himself for a fight. The confusion only grew when he saw that Isen's eyes were closed, and he growled to get Isen to flinch, to show some sort of weakness. But the padawan held firm, giving no indication that he even heard the animal, much less became frightened by it.

So, the animal began to approach the Jedi slowly. Isen could sense a whirlwind of emotions. The confusion was driven by power emotions. First, there was fear of Isen. Everything in these lands was afraid of hssiss. Some reacted by running, others by fighting. But Isen was not scared and was standing his ground. The hssiss hated Isen for that, the second great and powerful emotion that fueled the Dark Side inside of it.

Confused or not, the dark side dragon continued his approach, stopping no more than three feet away from the Jedi. Again, the beast let loose a horrible roar right at Isen. It was so close, Isen could smell the stench of tainted breath and feel the pressure of air exiting the dragon's mouth. Isen would not budge, but instead, slowly open his eyes to stare right at the creature. Predators all over the galaxy take direct eye contact differently. For some, making eye contact is a sign that you recognize it is there. That you will not be easy prey. For others, it is a challenge, an invitation to fight. Isen wasn't quite sure what the hssiss would think about it, but Isen was projecting a quiet and sure confidence. He had lept once at the charging creature, but he would not leave his mark again. And the dragon would know it. Isen's breathing slowed, and when he looked into the lizard's eyes, he saw that the dragon understood. If he charged, Isen would hold his ground and was very confident that he would manage to do just that.

It wasn't a challenge, and Isen would project that as well. He did not want the hssiss to charge, but if he did, Isen would sense a wave of force energy sufficient to roll the creature backwards two or three times. Isen sent the message telepathically as he said out loud. "If you test me, you will fail, and it may hurt. Or, we can exist together."

Isen could sense that the hssiss had lost confidence in defeating Isen, but all the creature knew how to do was attack and eat. His very biology- including hunger- told him to attack, but the animal's good sense was giving him pause. Isen could sense those two realities tugging inside the animal's mind. The padawan had nothing left to do but let the dragon decide if he would let his hatred and hunger make the decision, or his recognition in the futile nature of an attack.


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In the hssiss' shoes, Yulie would be acting no differently. Many nights she could have climbed down from the rooftops to scrounge the streets for food, but remained trapped up there as a prisoner to her doubts and tattered sense of worth even when dizzied by hunger. But looking down upon the beast's hesitation was perplexing the Dathomirian. She saw only its size and the garrison of blades under its command. She could not see the carbon scoring, the lean hide stretching tightly across its bulky skeleton, or why that would matter to a predator so large.

Yulie's sternum could feel the creature's roar, the intense base vibrating through the stone ridge, but the threat felt empty despite its volume. Murderous intent made a gargling sound when an animal would growl, and there was often a sharp scraping to a snarl when a creature was ready to spring into a fight. This roar possessed neither; it was noise for its own sake, like it was more concerned with waking someone up than hunting or defending its territory.

When Isen spoke, it was so calm that Yulie couldn't even make out the words, but she could make out the tone of a gentle man. Is he trying to lure it in? Goading it to attack...or maybe make it curious enough to get too close? That's what I do sometimes when I hunt, but Izel said not to hurt it.

Carefully, Yulie turned her head in absolute silence, just enough to keep Isen's confrontation in her peripheral vision while looking to see if Izel was baffled by this as well. Not that Yulie actually knew what the insectoid equivalent of a baffled expression would be. She returned her attention to the hssiss.

Is this how Beast Control is supposed to work? Why is it that a beast that large and ferocious is becoming more amicable, but if I so much as look at a loth-cat, it tries to eat my face?

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Izel Thral

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Izel didn't react as Yulie turned to look at her. The Insectoid's eyes were fixed squarely on the scene below, her whole body remaining motionless save for the occasional twitch of her antennae. That's it... She thought to herself as she used her Force sense to feel what was happening in the minds of the two beings below. You've got him...

When Isen opened his eyes the hssiss took another step back, instinctually fearful. As their eyes met the reptile began to enter into an almost hypnotic state. As it's walls broke down Isen would be able to feel what was happening inside it's mind through the connection he had formed. The beast feared him, and that fear transformed into resentment as it felt deprived of a meal by Isen's strength. It seemed to receive the message loud and clear that attacking would be fruitless, and only result in an injury that would make hunting even more difficult. And as the creature resolved not to attack the Padawan's warmth began to break through it's veil of hatred.

Hssiss were in fact not solitary creatures. They hunted in pairs, and so had an understanding of what cooperation was. Isen was not prey, but he was not a predator either. He showed no interest whatsoever in harming the hssiss as other beings like him had. In the reptile's relatively simple mind that left only the possibility that he was a friend. Slowly the hssiss backed down, lowering it's head submissively and letting out a much meeker groan. It's anger, while not gone, seemed greatly diminished in his presence. As his will took over the bond the creature would only become more docile as time proceeded.

Up on the ridge Izel sighed with relief and sat back. He had done it. "Marvelous work Padawan..." She murmured quietly to herself. She had been somewhat worried this would be too much of a challenge for her apprentice too quickly. But as usual he had greatly exceeded her expectations. While there were still certain aspects of being a Jedi he failed to grasp, when given proper direction he seemed to overcome whatever test she threw at him fairly easily. That was good, but in the future she still had to see just how well he performed completely on his own.

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The padawan would keep his eyes fixated on the eyes of the hssiss as it slowly began to show signs of submission. The dragon backed up. It lowered his heads. His moans and noises were no longer meant to convey fear upon the Kiffar Jedi, but rather a recognition of the pecking order. It was Isen's greatest challenge, and instinctively, he thought about his own Kiffar lineage, how his clan was known for taming the various beasts on their planet and using them as mounts into battle. Unfortunately, the dark side dragon wasn't built for such a challenge. The shark row of spikes from his tail all the way up the animal's back and neck would prevent that.

So, as a final test, Isen would squat. He wouldn't come any closer, but would simply lower himself. He saw the hssiss look up and give it some consideration. Standing over 6 feet tall and muscular after mining for some time, there was a physical appeal for the hssiss to consider. But, now that Isen had gone from over 6 feet tall to just about three feet, the hssiss was contemplating whether the odds had changed. Isen could sense it and he simply shook his head at the beast. "Wouldn't try it," Isen said. The lizard seemed to listen and give it some thought. Once more, it lowered its head submissively.

Finally, Isen looked up at Izel on top of the ridge. He was curious if he had succeeded. Perhaps she thought so, but Isen felt there was only one true way to see if the hssiss had actually been tamed and if the bond would hold. Isen slowly rose again. Instinctively, the dragon took two steps backwards. The Jedi held out a hand in reassurance. "I'm not going to hurt you. You don't have to run from me."

Short of mounting this dragon, Isen felt the only way to prove this animal had been fully subdued would be to test its prey drive. Reaching out with the Force, he found the beasts signature, held on to it. He turned away from the creature and started at first to walk away. But then, he would pick up the pace with a jog, and then, if the beast still would not attack, he would spring to the ridge and begin his ascent back to Yulie and his master. Would the animal's prey drive be stronger than the bond he created?

Isen started walking away from the creature to find out.


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The act of watching the Kiffar testing the hssiss' restraint was posing a challenge the Dathomirian's own. The creature was responding to the Padawan, but it was beyond Yulie's sight if that thing had been fully tamed or if it was still under the sway of its basest urges. When Isen squatted to half his height, the girl's fingertips stretched over the stone precipice and gripped the rock tight enough to turn her knuckles a shade of blue. Her toes dug into the ground. Her heels lifted.

Hunger was known to drive even domesticated animals beyond madness; if the bonds forged through Beast Control became severed by the temptation to pounce upon prey that was now about half its previous height, Isen could find himself staring down the throat of a fury more fierce than the hssiss were known for. Yulie had a different set of limits; the inability to stand idly by if someone else was being attacked. It never improved her fortunes, but she could not break the cycle. The Dark Side fed on her worries and polluted Yulie's mind with the imagery of animal maulings, dominating her thoughts about what might happen if she simply watched the hssiss slake its bloodthirst upon the Kiffar.

Her body was like a slug resting in the chamber of a Cycler Rifle, waiting to be released from the barrel and ready to be freed into the lizard's hide. There's always some wretched creature out there, some mongrel that doesn't know how to stay away. If the hssiss was prepared to teach this to Isen, Yulie was prepared to give it the same lecture. The Force was responding to her protective instincts, gathering strength at the tips of her fingers and her toes, needing only for her aggression to spike.

Isen rose slowly and began walking away from the thing. Yulie absently wondered if it was over, murky ponderings too primal to form words. An answer came from somewhere within herself, an echo too faint and too muffled to be understood clearly. Searching her feelings to get a clear sense of it, she found only a warning, one she typically gave herself after the fact: stop making things worse.

Her eyes fluttered and she took deep, rapid breaths. She lifted her fingertips and stretched her fingers all the way out so as to not grip the ledge. She moved her toes back and lowered her heels. I'm not going to make things worse this time. She told herself, closing her eyes. If she could not see the hssiss or the temptations Isen was putting it through, Yulie could keep her mind in the moment. If she was not poised to strike, then she would not be able to. Isen is not alone. Isen does not need me. I would only get in the way. I would only make things worse. I will trust that he can pass this test. I will trust that his teacher can protect him. The Dark Side would get the last word as Yulie let go of her anxiety. And if they cannot...I will make jerky from that thing.

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Izel Thral

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Izel leaned forward again as Yulie did, although she didn't display the same level of obvious concern. She was vigilant, and watching the hssiss very closely. She was prepared to act if she was needed to, but she had a much stronger grasp on her emotions than the Dathomirian did.

Below the hssiss flicked out it's tongue again as it watched Isen, more curious than anything else. The Vratix couldn't sense any more aggression coming from it, at least any aimed towards her Padawan. The beast was hungry, and seemed to still have a generalized anger towards other beings. But it appeared it's feeling towards Isen were different thanks to the bond. When the young Kiffar started to move the hssiss followed, not stalking like before, but in the sense that it thought they were going somewhere together. The beast was taking cues from Isen as though he were the stronger of the pair. It kept a respectful distance but still picked up the pace as the Padawan increased his own. When Isen started to scale the ridge however the hssiss remained below, watching curiously and continuing to taste the air. When the creature finally took notice of Izel and Yulie above it let out an uncomfortable growl, but seeing Isen approach them without fear it too began to relax.

Izel stood up fully as her apprentice returned to them, looking down on the hssiss for a few moments more before shifting her focus to Isen. "I know you think mastery of the Force is your weak point," She remarked. "But you're actually quite the fast learner when it comes to aspects that interest you. Well done." She looked down at the hssiss again. It seemed the creature wasn't going anywhere anytime soon. "It seems you've made a new friend..." She said thoughtfully, antennae twitching. "Once we get back to the ship we'll have to see how deep the captain's stores are. He looks like he could use a good meal." So long as they remained here it wouldn't hurt to keep the creature around. If anything it might actually help Isen to strengthen his understanding of how the dark side affected people and non-sentient beings, seeing as how the hssiss was still corrupted despite it's surrender to his control. She looked back at her apprentice.

"I hope this has helped you get a grasp of what I was speaking of earlier." She said. "There is always a route to recovering one from the depths of the dark side, so long as you know how to find it. It's a dangerous path to navigate, but once you are strong enough you will be able to take greater risks in finding those paths." She looked towards Yulie. "And I hope this serves as a lesson for you as well. No matter how dark your past may be you can still choose to look at the galaxy through a brighter lens. Choose to see the potential for redemption in others, rather than the flawed creatures they appear to be." She would take one last look at the hssiss below. It remained there, pacing about restlessly as it kept its eyes on the trio. She looked back at Isen. "Let's get back to the ship, and you can show me these lightsabers you recovered." Izel told him. There was still a sliver of annoyance in her voice there. If there was one thing she hated it was being kept in the dark on things, especially when it came to something so potentially dangerous. "And by the way... There isn't anything else you'd like to tell me is there?"

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Isen was glad that his actions had pleased Izel. He had managed to disappoint her time and time again with his lack of empathy and aggressiveness since he became her padawan. And now, this dishonesty through omission of facts had hurt her on a more personal level because they had become quite close. She said he was stronger in the Force than he gave himself credit for. Perhaps some of her disappointment hinged on her high expectations. Those same high expectations were something that Isen should have put on himself long ago. Another failure on his part, but there was nothing that could be done about it now. "Thank you, Master," was all he could really say at this point.

Isen looked down at the hssiss who was looking up curiously at Isen and the two others that surrounded him. Isen had bonded with the creature, and he felt sadness for it. He started the exercise thinking he had to tame a Dark Side creature. It was nothing but a means to an end, a lesson to be taught and learned. But now, now that he had connected to the dragon on a different level, a more personal one, he felt genuine sadness for it. The hunger, the mistreatment. There was little he could do except what Izel had suggested- maybe the captain had enough food in storage to give the animal a hearty meal.

And so, they would start their journey back to the ship. He started thinking about the lightsabers in the ship when she asked him if he had anything else to tell her. Well, the lightsabers did remind of him something. "You know how you told me to study on Master Mace Windu? I have, and he was a very interesting Jedi Master...Very respected, in fact so much so that he was elected as Master of the Order by the High Council, even over the legendary Master Yoda for a time. He used a rare fighting form, Style VII. He is considered the architect of the Vaapad variant." He looked at Izel. "It appears he also struggled with...resorting to physical solutions to problems too quickly. It is said that he used Vaapad to help harness that hostility inside of him and use it for good."

He sighed and looked forward again as they walked. "The form is considered dangerous by many because of the aggressive nature of the form. It channels aggression to action, but for Master Windu, it was almost a necessity to channel it there so it did not spill out elsewhere in his life. There are many similarities between Master Windu and myself on a very basic level. He was extremely traditional and was angered by those who did not follow the code the way he felt it should be followed. I struggle with the same issues."

The ship was starting to come into view, but Isen continued. "I am giving consideration that maybe Vaapad is a form worth the risk of learning...based on the similar personalities of Master Windu and me." He gave a sideways glance to Izel to get her reaction.


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It was upon hearing the uncomfortable growl that Yulie opened her eyes. She cautiously took to her feet after Izel but kept her guard up. She could hardly believe that a beast that size could be tamed so quickly and was awed that Isen had done so on a world like Ambria, but the danger still felt close and would continue to feel close so long as the hssiss was nearby.

"Once we get back to the ship we'll have to see how deep the captain's stores are. He looks like he could use a good meal."

The Dathomirian disapproved. She was the ship’s Help and that made her part of the crew; she had at least some responsibility to defend the ship and its inventory. The captain wouldn’t approve of donating their reserves to the local wildlife. I should say something. But she didn’t.

Yulie looked upon the hssiss resentfully as she envisioned the earful she would surely receive from her Captain when he’d learn the fate of his foodstuffs. The lizard smacked its jaw and cocked its head, curiously observing Yulie’s resentment taking aim at herself, for she knew that she wasn’t assertive enough to talk the Jedi out of feeding a stray and it would be for her cowardly silence that she’d have to skimp on the protein paste.

The only reason she was on a fasting diet to begin with was because she told the Captain that she did not eat very much and she secretly worried that he would accuse her of taking advantage of his generosity if she reached too deeply into the stores. Food was steady, the cupboards stocked, and that was a better arrangement than before. She could hold out for a while, she was sure of it, even if she had to take longer naps to conserve energy. She just hoped Izel wouldn’t cart out too much.

"And I hope this serves as a lesson for you as well. No matter how dark your past may be you can still choose to look at the galaxy through a brighter lens. Choose to see the potential for redemption in others, rather than the flawed creatures they appear to be."

I will try.” Yulie answered, uncertain if she saw this ephemeral potential in the hssiss. Its behaviour was amicable, to be sure, but its nature had not changed. The hour would come when it remembers its place in Ambria’s wilds. Would it not become the same as it once was, presenting the same danger to anyone else it encounters? Try.

Her effort was akin to swimming against a current. Up close, she could see make out the ridges on its ribs as clearly as her own, and the burns etched into its skin spoke of an ordeal worse than she had endured. Pity was something difficult to find, as was compassion. Even if they fed it, it would starve again. It would catch the scent of other sentients and would either devour them or earn some new scars trying. What compassion was being shown to the people who would need to defend themselves from it? In what way would their pity improve the creature’s life? Would it not be better for everyone to just put that hssiss down? If a lightsaber could show kindness as it cut, so too could a gentle execution.

Just try. Actually try; don’t just try to find an excuse to roast it over the ship’s thrusters. Yulie doubted that her thoughts were leading her down the path that Izel intended, which only meant that she had to work harder at it. The problem wasn’t just a matter of looking through a brighter lens, but that she also had to set aside the darker ones that were already fixed before her. But I am trying, aren’t I? It wouldn’t be out of cruelty or cowardice. How is it kind to rob the Captain’s food to fatten up this monster and turn it loose just so it can find some people again? Wouldn’t it be kinder to cull the predators so the miners can work in peace?

She tried not to think about it any further. Her way of thinking wasn’t leading her to the conclusions that she imagined Izel would want, but maybe things would make more sense later on and the better questions might be reverse engineered after the fact.

Making her way back to the ship with the two Jedi, she put in her full effort to not fall behind and kept Izel between herself and Isen. Yulie did not trust their new tag-along. If she fell behind, it might take interest in her and block the way. If she walked beside Isen, it might get defensive and nip at her hands. Even domesticated animals could be dangerous, and Yulie was not going to take any risks if she didn’t have to. It would have been smarter to walk between them; the thing was still free to wander alongside the pale-faced girl if it got curious, and Izel was too large for the girl to duck around and find a better position.

Determined to be too uninteresting for the creature to take interest in her, she managed to keep pace this time. Isen’s conversation about fighting styles gave her something better to think about, but still took issue with the Jedi’s cavalier usage of the title ‘Master’. ‘Master’ Windu. ‘Master’ Yoda. In Yulie’s mind there shouldn’t be Masters of any sort. The word meant power, authority, and privilege, over those who were not. It was a prideful honorific. Pride leads to arrogance, arrogance leads to abuse of power.

‘Padawan’ had no such correlation, no ties to the oldest of abusive ways of thinking. Yulie saw wisdom in naming a rank so, but at some point, somebody needed to be regarded as a Master and that wisdom reached its endpoint. Do Sith call their betters ‘Master’? Yulie wondered. She did not think it would reflect well on the Jedi if such were the case.

The discussion about fighting styles was fascinating and a few questions came to mind, but Yulie kept them to herself. She did not want to interrupt, nor did she want to remind the hssiss of her presence.

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Izel Thral

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Before they could set off back towards the ship Izel and Yulie had to step down from the ridge and into the hssiss' proximity. The reptile first approached Izel cautiously, and the Vratix calmly held out a hand. It was easy enough for her to make a connection with the beast and show that she was not a threat, given Isen had already done all the heavy lifting. The creature took interest in Yulie as well, but a sharp order from the Vratix prompted it to back off. Afterwards the hssiss fell in behind Isen as they walked and kept close to him.

During the journey back Isen brought up his studies of Master Windu and more specifically his discovery of the Vaapad variant of Form VII. Contrary to what the Padawan might have expected Izel actually seemed pleased by this. Privately, she had hoped he would take such interest when she initially suggested the reading. She could sense his reservations though, understanding why he felt such a way given some of his personal shortcomings.

"Well, remember what we spoke of before." She started. "You would not have been made as you are if the Force did not wish it to be so. Vaapad I think would actually serve as an excellent outlet for your aggression. If you could master it." She looked forward and clicked her mandibles thoughtfully. "Unfortunately the Vaapad variant died with Master Windu and his apprentice Master Depa Billaba. As far as I am aware she was the only person he passed the form on to before Emperor Palpatine's purge nearly wiped us out. Recreating the form would no doubt require extensive research." She looked back at her apprentice. "But I think if anyone is capable of it, you are. You have the talent, and with time I think you will develop the necessary control. If you do decide to pursue the matter however I must strongly suggest you do so with the assistance of another expert duelist. Any investigation into Form VII should not be done alone. Obviously I couldn't help you in regards to the physical aspects, you have already surpassed me there, but if you ever need any assistance in your historical research I would be glad to lend a hand." She hoped offering her blessing would serve as encouragement for the Padawan to continue looking into it for two reasons. The first being she truly believed a pursuit so closely tied to his interests would be healthy for him and help him to find the balance he still needed as a Jedi. The second being that she hated the idea of any work of the Jedi being lost to time. Master Windu had been one of the greatest Jedi in the Order's long history. To think of his legacy being irretrievably lost was heartbreaking to the Vratix.

Eventually they reached the landing zone. It seemed in their absence the captain had come outside to set up a chair and relax in the sun. The moment he caught sight of the hssiss trailing behind the approaching trio however he comically tumbled to the ground in panic before scrabbling behind it and fumbling to pull out a blaster pistol as he took cover. "What the hell is that!?" He exclaimed, blaster shaking in hand as he pointed it at the reptile. The hssiss growled, but Izel quickly stepped in front of the creature and raised a hand towards the man.

"Calm down captain," She said gently. "He won't harm you."

"N-no pets on my ship thank you!" The captain exclaimed, nervously trying to joke as the blaster kept shaking in his hand.

"We're not bringing him aboard," Izel insisted. "There are a lot of deadly predators on Ambria," She lied. "Wouldn't you like a guard dog while we're here? This one is quite tame I assure you." The captain looked between the three of them. Although he was still terrified, the fact the beast hadn't torn them to shreds yet spoke for itself. Slowly he holstered his weapon.

"What kind of freaks are you?" He asked the two Jedi. Izel just chittered lightly.

"Just some very experienced travelers captain." She explained. "You have my word nothing bad will come of his presence. Although we will be needing some of your stores to feed him. I'll make sure you're compensated though." The captain wilted at that but stood up and brushed himself off.

"So long as your credits are good... I guess." He said somewhat begrudgingly. "I'm pumping up the price though. And if that... thing takes a bite out of the ship... Or my crew... You're paying for the bills." He looked at Yulie. "Sure you want to keep hanging around these two?" He asked her concernedly. "It's a wonder you're not dead already..." Without waiting for a response he'd pick up his chair and return to the ship. With the tension seemingly defused the hssiss would begin wandering around the area before moving towards the pond to take a drink. Izel turned around to look between Isen and Yulie.

"Now... Where are those sabers?" She asked a bit more cheerfully.

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Isen Ramm

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The padawan couldn't help but grin at the captain's fear. It was justified and would have been even more so if he had a clue what he was looking at. Still, the animal had been broken, tamed, and befriended by Isen. So for now, a friend of Isen would be a friend of the hssiss. But, his master was ready to get to the lightsabers, and Isen was genuinely excited how this might be done.

"They're tucked away in my pack in the cabin area. I'll grab them and come back." Isen figured that Izel and Yulie still had some things to discuss and it might make it easier for everyone without Isen there. Isen knew that the Dathomirian was strong in the Force, but he felt like Izel was playing a dangerous game with this one. It would take treading carefully, and treading carefully was not what Isen was typically known for.

Entering the ship, the Kiffar would have to walk by the pilot and captain who looked quite exasperated by the events. Even he could feel that Ambria was not somewhere he wanted to stay long. Isen patted the captain on the shoulder as he walked past him. "I know you feel like helping the beast outside of the ship is an unnecessary kindness, one that cannot be repaid. Maybe the beast can't. But, it's my experience that kindness comes back to you, Captain. It's funny how the galaxy has a way of treating you the way that you treat it." He walked a few more feet and then turned around with a bit more bass in his voice. "And the name-calling really isn't necessary. I would prefer that you not do it again."

The captain stuttered a bit, "Right...uhh..uhh...right. I apologize. The freaks thing was just my uneasiness talking." Even though Isen had remained perfectly calm and polite, his deadpan face, unflinching eyes, and muscular build was enough for the captain to not contest the request.

Isen nodded before turning back, smirking when the captain couldn't see. He would take his time getting the lightsabers he had taken from the Dark Side cultist warrior...for Yulie and Izel's sake more than his own.


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Yulie

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The Captain’s reaction to the oversized lizard was a little startling. It was the first time she had seen him truly afraid. He did back down from Isen days prior, but he never reached for his weapon. And he always seemed so prickly and distant that Yulie didn’t really think he was afraid of anything. Was the planet affecting him, too? She tightened her lips and kept out of it. If Ambria had been intoxicating him all this time, it would require the Jedi’s words to settle him, not her own.

Sure enough, Izel managed to calm him and even broached the subject of feeding the creature. A weight lifted from Yulie’s chest. They weren’t going to raid the cupboards without permission, after all. The Captain wouldn’t have to berate her for throwing away perfectly good food to a mongrel and she wouldn’t have to put herself on a starvation diet to balance the ledger.

"So long as your credits are good... I guess. I'm pumping up the price though. And if that... thing takes a bite out of the ship... Or my crew... You're paying for the bills."

Yulie’s eyes perked up when he mentioned his crew. She was crew! And he didn’t want parts bitten off of her! Maybe she really could earn his recommendation to the Free Spacers Guild!

"Sure you want to keep hanging around these two?"

Th---

"It's a wonder you're not dead already..."

Yulie deflated. Her bony shoulders slumped and her bangs slipped out from behind her ears, falling back to their rightful place where they hid her eyes whenever she looked down. “They’re showing me how to fix something.” She said quietly to the ramp while the Captain slipped back inside. He had no way of knowing how it felt for her to be considered Crew, nor how it felt to be brushed off just as quickly. She almost felt like she belonged there on that ship…but then she remembered that she was just there.

When Isen marched up the ramp to gather the lightsabers, Yulie looked at the Vratix.

I will get the food. Most Captains don’t like it when passengers handle their inventory, so…” Yulie’s voice trailed off as she thought ahead. There was a separate manifest for the ship’s provisions in the Galley, but the kid did not know how to read. “So I’ll meet you in the Mess when I gather everything, and you can sign off for the extra rations.” Was there an order form with the manifest? Yulie thought it was a safe bet to presume the proper documentation was in place. And if not? Well, it would be mostly on Izel to conjure a workaround for this one; paperwork wasn’t part of this mechanic’s skillset.

She took a roundabout path to the hold, first making a pit stop in the engine room to fish out the last of her bread from her pack. Of the heavy mound of grain that Isen had given her, only a quarter remained, carefully rationed as her primary source of carbs for the last several days. It felt firmer after all this time but was just as nutritionally satisfying even when stale. Exhaling a warm breath of moist air onto its surface, she wedged it into the folds of her cloth belt and set forth to the hold. Being around all that undefended food would make her hungry, and she wanted something on hand to resist the pantry’s temptations.

Passing through the Galley, she caught sight of the dishes piling up over by the scullery. “Tak.” She put her fist against her hip and shook her head like a tired mother catching a glimpse of her teenager’s bedroom. The counter was clear this morning! How many dishes does the Captain need to use!? The worst part about having a day off was knowing that she would have to work harder later to make up for lost time. She snatched a large serving tray and, in a language entirely unfamiliar to her, she grumbled a chain of horrifying words that she picked up from the Captain and set about her task.

Piling the tray was a delicate balance. She could only guess how much the creature could eat, but since the Captain intended on marking up the price for these meats, Yulie tried to find that fine line of providing the creature a decent meal without bankrupting the Jedi in the process. Further, she didn’t want to deplete any particular reserve (if she emptied the Captain’s favorites then he might be extra grumbly until they could restock) so she assembled a variety of options.

Try to be kind. She reminded herself when studying her conservative selection of treats. It may not make any sense to be feeding this thing at all, but the better it is fed the longer it will wait before it starts hunting people. That was when the idea wormed its way to the forefront of her thoughts. She could poison the creature. She knew the chemicals aboard the ship, and she had already planted some vermicide traps here to protect their food. This could be the lizard’s last meal, a happy moment before its eventual death a couple days later when its liver shuts down. The Jedi wouldn’t have to know. The miners would be safe.

Inside the cold chamber of the walk-in cooler, it felt like the temperature was in freefall, except it was falling from her core and not the ambient air. She shivered and held her head, remembering this feeling from earlier. Try to be kind. Instead of burying a potent toxin in the middle of a feast, she pulled the last of her bread from her belt and slipped it between two juicy layers of meat. There was no way to know if a hssiss needed carbs, and the thing still might spit it out and ignore it even it absorbed the succulent flavours pressing against it from all sides, but it was the best that she could do.

The Dark Side would not permit her to feel good about her act of charity. Her stomach growled painfully in open rebellion against her decision, so she loosened the belt and licked away the last crumbs from the red cloth. Unwinding it, she tied it around her waist and wore it as her ratty sarong once more, just a little more mindful about hiding the lightsaber than she was back at the spice den. She emerged shortly thereafter once she got used to feeling cold on the inside.

An experienced waitress, balancing the wide stack of meat with one hand was a mere matter of routine. Though weary bicep quivered beneath the weight, she was able to hold the tray steady as she lifted the manifest from the wall and walked them both to Izel. The act of resting the assortment of foods was a little eager, making a sharp noise when the metal sheet met the table’s surface, but it was well within her control.

Let me know if I need to bring some of this back. I don’t actually know how much any of this costs…or how much you had planned on giving in the first place. I’m just guessing how big its stomach is.” To Yulie’s credit, she had meticulously arranged the different selections so they’d be easy to identify and count.

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Izel Thral

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Izel nodded to Yulie as she explained where she was going, then watched as both her and Isen entered the ship. For her own part the Vratix stood out in the open a few minutes longer. The darkness here was crushing, but she could feel the faintest glimmer of the light piercing through the veil the longer they remained on the planet to fight against it. They couldn't stay too long, but during their time here she figured she would meditate and try to spread that light a little more, just as the great Master Thon had done so many years before. It would do well to show Yulie a taste of the light side, and help create a foothold for the Jedi to return to should they ever follow through on purifying the world.

As the Vratix made her way back onto the ship her thoughts focused more on the Dathomirian. Training her would be no easy task, she was very different than Isen. Even so, she couldn't stand the idea of leaving her to wander the galaxy on her own, broken as she was. If she did not end up destroying herself she would only cause harm to others. At the very least she had to bring the girl before the Jedi masters to see what they could do for her, if she was unable to help her herself.

When Yulie returned with the food Izel inspected it for a few moments, making calculations in her head of what would be appropriate to feed the hssiss. She had dealt with livestock similar in size to the reptile on her homeworld, but there would be obvious differences that needed accounting for. In the end she made what she considered to be a fair estimation and removed some of the meat from the platter. "We can't give him too much," She explained to Yulie as she took the manifest from the girl and looked it over. "If a starving animal eats too much food at once it will make them sick. It can even kill them in some cases." Her antennae drooped somewhat as she realized how much she would be spending on all of this. The Order offered some allowance to it's members for expenses while traveling the galaxy, but it had been quite a while since her and Isen's departure and she was starting to cut into her personal funds quite heavily. She considered herself lucky to have such generous relatives back home.

After signing off on the supplies Izel would take the food outside while leaving Yulie to return the rest back to the ship's stores. The Vratix would set the meat down on the ground outside before taking a good few steps back and calling out to the hssiss. The reptile galloped over like an excited dog once he caught whiff of the food, and dug in ravenously. Izel made sure to keep her distance, but felt a swell of satisfaction upon seeing the beast's mood so obviously improved. As she returned to the ship to wait for Isen to return she would speak to Yulie once more.

"I know this planet must be making you feel miserable," She said to the girl sympathetically. "I'm sorry this had to be the way you were introduced to the Force. Were circumstances different I would have taken you somewhere far more pleasant." She knew she still couldn't tell her where their temple was. Really she shouldn't even be making promises about there being a place for her in the Order with all the changes that were happening. But she wanted to put her at ease as much as possible. "Rest assured we won't be staying too much longer. Once you've had a chance to feel a place bathed in the light side of the Force it will be easier for you to understand where we're coming from." She paused again, tilting her head thoughtfully. Having gotten a glimpse inside the girl's head she was well aware just how much self-loathing she suffered from, and how the dark side had been eating at her long before they arrived here. She wanted to alleviate those feeling, if even just a little. "Are you..." She started a bit awkwardly, unsure how to broach the topic without seeming to pry. "Do you want to be called Yulie? I know it's what you're most used to by now but... Now that I know what the name means I can't help but feel awful just saying it. You don't need to keep the name your masters gave you, you know. You're a free woman now after all."

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Isen Ramm

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Isen had given the pair a little time to discuss things. He knew that Yulie was going to be a work in progress, and a work that would require a lot of care and attention if she was going to be taught the ways of the Jedi and how to use the Force. So, Isen headed to his bunk. There he rummaged through his pack and got down to the bottom where he had placed the lightsabers he had taken off the Cult Warrior that he killed on Onderon. He pulled them from his pack, and Isen could feel the Dark Side seeping from the corrupted crystals inside the pair of lightsabers. He stared at them for a minute and then started to make his way toward the commons area.

He stopped short where they couldn't see just to see if this was a bad time. He walked in on Izel asking some questions about if she really wanted to be called Yulie...being a free woman now...sounded like women talk to Isen. He simply turned back and would have a seat on his bunk for a few and check back later.

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Yulie

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Yulie was absolutely silent while Izel fed the hssiss. It disturbed the girl to return so much meat to the walk-in cooler. Of course she had gathered too much. She knew from her own experience that you can't drop a feast in front of someone who had been hungry for too long, and she knew that wild animals had virtually zero self-control. Yet it hadn't even occurred to her that the creature would have happily gorged itself to death on the platter she had prepared. She had tried to show it kindness, consciously resisting the urge to poison it, but the Dark Side closed her eyes to a far more lethal method. The Dark Side was able to warp even the best intentions to the worst outcome, and while she couldn't even comprehend how it was affecting her, this made it clear that it was affecting her even when she tried to resist.

She must have looked half shell-shocked, because Izel apologized for bringing her to the planet upon returning. "I was ignorant of this aspect of myself, and ignorant of how I can be influenced through it. I will not choose ignorance, so I am grateful." But she would be more grateful if they never came back here.

"Are you...do you want to be called Yulie? I know it's what you're most used to by now but... Now that I know what the name means I can't help but feel awful just saying it. You don't need to keep the name your masters gave you, you know. You're a free woman now after all."

Yulie sighed. How did Izel even figure all this out? She thought she had been careful, but then again, she was never really around anybody who cared enough to pay attention to her. Standing humbly in the background hardly flexed her subterfuge. Well, if Izel paid enough attention, the Jedi at least deserved an honest answer.

My name isn’t something that I can just change. Only a Clan Mother or my birth mother can give me a new one and that’s…complicated.”

Yulie glanced towards the shadows, thinking she heard the Captain but didn't find anything.

Even if a Clan takes me in, there’s no telling when or if the Mother will grant me a name. If she’s feeling generous, she could do so after my rite of passage; a new name for a new life. Or I might have to earn the respect of the village over time, maybe perform some great deed to know me by. It would be a lot easier if I could find my birth mother; a name from an outsider would never be held above what one calls her own daughter…but finding her is impossible.”

Had she been told the truth, it would not be so difficult. The truth was that her mother was still in the prison and her parentage known to her jailor, but the story she was told was wildly contradictory with what actually happened. Yulie did not mean to deceive Izel when she tried to contextualize her situation, but her explanation to Izel indeed propagated the lie.

I was born in a debtor’s prison, and children there inherit their parents’ debts. A lot of workers have as many kids as possible because offspring are an investment that pays off once they stop growing, but the young are expensive. They need medical attention, extra rations, clothes, and if you're busy looking after them then you're not working off your debt. If someone is close to paying the last of what they owe, they tend to abandon their newborn. If their parentage cannot be proven, they become one of the Yulie; YL-dash-numbers."

It was a naming convention designed to normalize the concept of disposable people, and it was hardly unique. While the armies of the Republic, Empire and First Order did it to strip away a soldier's individuality, when used by corporations, the purpose was to kill one's sense of worth. It made them dependent on the very system that would deny their right to exist. Creating a sub-class of workers also suppressed the will to resist, riot, or even demand better conditions. The Yulies' existence threatened insubordinate prisoners with the prospects of a hopeless future, and by making the Yulies refer to themselves as Nothing made enough of them believe it. That belief was a useful deterrence against a rebellion of their own.

Even if I legally changed my name, the Clans wouldn’t recognize it. They’d see it like…” The Dathomirian was no slave, but she was still a prisoner, just one of a different kind: one who carries her prison with her. All she had to do was let it go, but the girl had it in her head that Nightsister culture was the arbiter of her emancipation. “…like I’m asserting myself over my own mother, or defying the Elders. They would be insulted. It wouldn’t be insulting if my name changed through marriage, but they wouldn’t recognize the ways of another culture above their own; I’d still just be Yulie to them.

She did not want to be Yulie, but her feelings did not enter into it. A name was something that was given, not taken. Just as one cannot choose their own nickname, only a mother could name a Dathomirian. She knew no other way.

But you don't have to feel bad about using my name. You can’t hurt me with it because you don’t mean to hurt with me with it. And you can call me anything if it makes you feel better. ‘Kid’, ‘Girl’, ‘Ash-face’, 'Nightshadow'. I’ve heard it all."

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Izel Thral

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Izel didn't really agree with what Yulie was saying. She seemed overly attached to the opinions of a clan that, judging by the snippets the Vratix had seen of the girl's memory, did not care much for her at all. But she understood where the young Dathomirian was coming from. The only identity she had grown up knowing was that of a slave, being taught to believe she had no personal worth at all. It would make sense then that the moment she became aware of a part of herself not attached to that wretched institution she would cling to it with unbridled zeal. Even if that culture rejected her and considered her lesser. Personally Izel would have advised her not to cling to such things and work to find her own place in the galaxy, but such a notion would no doubt be terrifying for someone as young and inexperienced as her, so she didn't push the issue. At least not for now.

"I see..." She replied simply to the Dathomirian's explanation. The other names Yulie offered up as substitutes didn't really come off as very appealing either, with each sounding rather dismissive or outright derogatory. "My kind aren't really the type for nicknames." She explained. "I suppose Padawan will do." She said with a more positive tone, trying to convey to the Dathomirian that she didn't view her as anything less than anyone else. And even if it wasn't an official rank she held, she was still someone in need of teaching, and that was enough for the Vratix.

She would wait for Yulie's response, to see if she took any issue with that. If not she would then take a seat at the common room's table and wait for her apprentice to return with the lightsabers. "What is taking him so long?" She'd mutter to herself after another minute or two had passed. "Isen?" She called after him curiously, raising her voice so she could be heard across the ship.

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Isen Ramm

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"Isen?" he heard Izel say across the ship. Yulie and Izel's chat must have come to some sort of conclusion, and she was ready to begin the process of cleansing the crystals in the lightsabers. Isen had been studying the construction of the lightsabers. The hilts were cold durastee, and it seemed no matter how long he held it in his hands, the metal would not warm to his touch. Isen knew that the Kyber crystal was the only part of the lightsaber that was reactive to the Force, but it seemed as if the entirety of the lightsaber didn't want to work with him.

Interesting.

Isen grabbed them both and walked back to the commons where Yulie and Izel were. He placed them down on the large round table in the commons dining area in front of Izel. He looked at them for a moment and then up to Izel. This was the first time she had seen them since that day on Onderon. They weren't flashy, but they were solidly constructed and adequately cared for. Isen wasn't sure why he expected the cultists to somehow have shoddy, neglected lightsabers, but if they were able to construct them at all, that was a testament to their skill and dedication to their craft...however dark it may be.

"Well, there they are," Isen said. He had no idea what to do next. Izel would have to run completely run this show.


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