The door to his quarters hissed shut, and Darth Nox let out a sigh of relief from under his mask. He slid a hand up around the back of his neck, undoing the clasps that held it in place, and gently levered the mask over his horns before casting it down onto the bed. He ran his gloved hands over his face, and the fingers became shiny with moisture.
He stood there for a minute, letting the soft breeze of the air conditioning brush his face. He let his fingers trace the lines of his facial tattoos...the Zabrak mark of the Night, if he remembered correctly. His dark brown hair stuck to his skin from the wetness, but a few strands fell over his glowing yellow eyes. His apprentice, Ashara, had joked that his eyes worked like a flashlight in the dark. He had made her do the droid's work around the ship for a day as punishment, but he had chuckled a little at the thought. It wasn't everyone who could get away with remarking on his appearance, and Ashara knew this. It was her way of being friendly, reassuring. Nox appreciated it in his own way, but if Khem, Talos and Xalek weren't allowed to do it without punishment, neither was she.
The mask was used for more than just intimidation.
Nox undid the clasp on his robe, slipping it down from his shoulders and stepping out. His body was even more ghostly than his face. 'A Trial of Determination', Ashara had called it. He'd struck her for that one. Considering the depths Nox had sunk to, the dark Force magics that flowed through him constantly, his body was in good shape. Not the most physically impressive, perhaps, but fit. And tough enough to withstand the decaying influence of bound Force-ghosts.
Admittedly, though, Nox agreed with Ashara-while his muscle structure was healthy, his looks relatively appealing, and his...'assets' of a good endowment, his skin, once a healthy blood red, was as white as bone, and almost see-through. He gave off no body heat, and the spider webs of veins beneath his skin made his body look cracked and diseased. Considering how he'd looked before, he was almost unrecognizable...and without a doubt, looks like this were unlovable. Ashare had meant that a lover who loved his body would love him, but Nox didn't think that a person like that existed.
But that was the price that he'd paid for mastery over the dead. And he'd done too much to give that up.
He picked up the robe and mask, and waved his hand. The metal closet at the end of his chamber swung open, and Nox guided the clothes over to it. He folded the robe over a hook and settled the mask down on top of it. Regal robes were all well and good but you wouldn't make a good impression if they were creased to shit.
Nox waved again, and the closet swung shut. He turned to his bed, and let himself fall forwards onto the plum sheets. He'd slept in this bed for close to a year, but it still wowed him slightly at how comfortable it was...nothing like the bedrolls in the Sith Academy, or the laughable rags that he had slept on in the slave camp.
It wasn't too long before he felt sleep swallow him up.
It swallowed him, but he wasn't dead, and then there were stars all around him, swirling, whirling, lightsabers whirling and slashing, slashing at flesh, flesh which rippled and glowed, and then the galaxy glowed, and then something flew from the galaxy out into the darkness, the darkness that was now inside him, flowing through him, and he grabbed onto the darkness and hurled it at the thing that was coming for him, and then it was going for someone else who shone with blinding light, and it was a light that couldn't go out, mustn't go out, but the darkness he held evaporated when it got close, so he stepped forwards and stepped in front of the being, and then around him were stars, and then the darkness beyond the galaxy was full of stars, and then the darkness was the galaxy, and the galaxy was full of darkness, and an eye opened and looked at him and Nox jolted awake.
There were several clatters and crashes as his lightsaber, a metal cup, and a datapad containing 'The History of Marka Ragnos' fell to the floor, apparently after being suspended in mid-air.
So much for a relaxing night. His sheets were on the other side of the room, and a few scorch marks indicated that Nox had blasted it away using Force Lightning. It wouldn't be the first time. Nox sighed and stretched, feeling his joints pop satisfyingly. His heart was pumping, but he'd had enough visions before to know that rushing around and worrying about them achieved little more than a headache. He held out a hand and his personal datapad flew into his palm. Carefully, he noted down everything he had seen.
He noted with a slight hint of amusement the names of other visions he'd documented on this pad. 'Thanaton-f*cker with friends who all want to kill me.' was the most recent, documented on Voss. He had a sudden thought and looked back at the first vision he'd documented. By the Force that was a while ago-he'd awoken in a cold sweat, and had dashed off to wake Khem.
'Little Sith, if you wish for me to eat you, keep shaking me.' He'd taken the hint. The title of it was 'Kallig-my great (x something massive) grandfather? ' It was the first time he'd heard the name Kallig-his ancestral name, dating back to Tulak Hord's time. He'd later found out that Kallig was indeed his ancestor, and this had paved the way to becoming a Lord, and then, not long after, a Darth. But, goodness...his first ever coherent vision. It felt so long ago.
Nox allowed himself a smile before finishing off the notes. 'Galaxy...lightsabers...light...hm...' It didn't make much sense when read as notes alone, but Nox understood enough.
It made him feel uneasy.
He gestured with his hand, summoning the sheets back on top of him, before extending a hand towards his personal intercom.
There was a metallic clank, and then the nervous electric voice crackled over the intercom.
'Y-Yes, my lord?'
'Plot a course for Dromund Kaas. I want to pay a visit to the slave camps.'
'Right away, my lord! Would you also like me to begin preparing your breakfast, my lord?'
'No, 2V. I'm going back to bed.'
'Very good, my lord. My lord needs his beauty sleep.'
'M-my lord, t-that was not my intent! I f-fear Ashara has reprogrammed me to say that! So disrespectful!'
Nox shook his head, letting himself chuckle. 'Just see to the ship, 2V.'
'R-right away my lord. Sorry, my lord.'
Nox dropped his hand and the intercom blinked off. Honestly, Ashara...She was a blessing on this ship sometimes, though of course he'd never say that out loud. He placed the datapad on the floor next to his bed, and he closed his eyes just as he felt the shivers of hyperspace thrum through the ship.
'That's it, Nadia. A little more relaxed, and you'll get it.'
Nadia's teeth gritted. 'I'm going as hard as I can, Master. How does relaxing help?'
Alfronto shook his head. 'There is never 'as hard as I can'. A Jedi has no limits, not really-they just need to work to expand them. To do that, they must let the Force flow through them.'
Beads of sweat sparkled on Nadia's forehead, but she nodded. Alfronto felt a rush of pride as Nadia relaxed her jaw, and let the Force cascade through her like a wave. The space in front of her rippled, shafts of light shooting off in all directions, and the boulder in front of her shattered like glass. Nadia swayed, doubled over, her hands on her knees, but she was grinning to herself. Alfronto smiled broadly at her, but put a hand on her shoulder to support her.
‘I did it, Master!’
'Yes you did. It's not easy, letting go of control like that, but wonders can be achieved if you do.'
'It...felt easy, once I let it happen. The whole time I felt like I was trying to restrain a rancor, but then once I relaxed it felt like a breeze went through me.'
'I'm so proud of you. You have just done what takes many Knights, and even Masters, months or even years to do. Remember-the Jedi lets the Force flow through them, and does not think it flows from them.'
'Can you help me with the other ones, though?'
Nadia smiled sheepishly, her snowy skin glistening with sweat, her pearly hair stuck to her forehead, and Alfronto smiled back. He straightened up, reaching for the Force. He tapped it, pulled it, guided it through him, and then he raised his hands and let it fly. The rest of the boulders were hurled back, blasted out of the pathway, and the group of locals gathered around cheered. Alfronto leaned down and helped Nadia straighten up, before turning to the Twi'lek man nearby.
'There you go, my good man. One clear pathway.'
'We will make sure to tell our village of your kindness. Thanks to you, we can get supplies to our scouts!'
'Always happy to help Nalen Raloch's people.'
The Twi'lek bowed, smiling broadly, before dashing back to help the rest of the Twi'lek pilgrims with the supply packs.
A small mountain path, which connected Kalikori Village to another, remote Pilgrim settlement, had been blocked off by a landslide, cutting off supplies to the village. Small packs had been dropped off by shuttle but slowly the villagers had been starving. Or, they would have been, if Alfronto and Nadia hadn't blasted the rocks out of the path with the Force. He allowed himself a moment of satisfaction: he loved helping people like this. It reminded him of why he was a Jedi Master.
It reminded him of why he'd spared Nalen.
'Master, should we help these villagers get the supplies up to the settlement?'
Nadia looked at the packs. Some of them did look heavy, and it was a long trek.
'Yes...Yes I think that would be best.'
He and Nadia joined the group, taking charge of the heaviest packs. With their assistance, the pilgrims made the trek to the settlement, arriving just before sundown. As they passed the exterior walls, a woman ran up to them, embracing a Twi'lek man just next to Nadia.
'Toren! Oh, honey, I was so worried!'
Toren chuckled and embraced her back. 'Well, with the Jedi helping us, we had nothing to worry about at all!'
The woman started, before shooting a look at Nadia.
'They...helped you, did they?'
Nadia looked at Alfronto, confused.
'Are...we not liked around here, Master?'
Alfronto shrugged, lowering the pack gently onto the ground.
'The pilgrims don't think we help enough. I think they may have a point.'
Nadia's eyes narrowed, but she kept her mouth shut. The woman looked at Alfronto, then at Toren, then at Nadia, before she nodded.
'Alright. You helped us out...big time, it looks like. So...thanks.'
'No problem at all, my good woman. I'm afraid my apprentice and I have to go, but if you need help again, don't hesitate to ask. If you want me, ask for Alfronto.'
'Alfronto...okay, got it.'
She nodded at Alfronto and gave a short smile to Nadia, before wrapping her arm around Toren and walking him briskly away. Toren looked back over his shoulder and called 'Thank you, Jedi!' before he disappeared into a tent. Alfronto nodded and turned to Nadia.
'Come along, Nadia. We'd better get back to the Temple. The Tython wildlife gets a bit intense at night.'
Nadia looked at the tent Toren and the woman had entered, before raising her eyes to his.
'Master, why do they think the Jedi don't help them?'
Alfronto bowed his head. 'I'll explain on the way. Come.'
They turned and began the descent. As they went, Alfronto explained that the pilgrims were illegal settlers, who faced troubles with the indigenous Flesh Raiders. They had originally blamed the Jedi for not helping them, so much so that a Force sensitive among them named Nalen Raloch had taken it upon himself to learn the ways of an ancient Dark Jedi master, named Rajivari, in order to destroyy the Flesh Raiders and the Jedi alike.
'But, he didn't?'
Alfronto shook his head. 'No, don't worry. Nalen saw the error of his thinking. Last I heard he was training at the Temple. I've been meaning to ask after him but I haven't gotten around to it.'
'He...must've been pretty strong.'
'He was. I think you'll like him, though-you have the same fire as him.'
Even in the rapidly darkening light, Alfronto could make out Nadia's gentle blush. She always blushed when praised, and it was always cute.
'Alright, we're nearly at the Temple...Nadia, I'm sorry, could you wait here?'
Nadia looked at him. 'Uh...why? Are you alright?'
Alfronto put a hand to his head. It felt like it was expanding.
'I...I'm not sure.'
The shadows of the trees were encircling him. The red sun setting over the mountains was an eye. The glittering lights in the waterfall were blaster bolts and slashing lightsabers. Alfronto stepped away from Nadia because he knew that she would get hurt if he didn't. He stepped onto the edge of the slope and there was a cliff with a churning ocean beneath him, and the ocean swirled into a vortex, a spiral, a spiral galaxy, dotted with stars that darkened just as the sun fell behind the mountain, just as the Jedi named Alfronto fell into the cold water of the lake.
He gasped, the chill shocking him. He froze for a second, taking in his surroundings.
He looked up. Nadia was at the edge of the pathway, her eyes wide with fear. He smiled shakily just as he began to shiver.
'I'm f-fine, N-Nadia!'
'DON'T DO THAT TO ME!'
'I'm s-sorr-rry ok-k?'
'YOU'D BETTER BE! HOLD ON, I'M COMING DOWN!'
'N-no, Nadia, d-don't-'
Nadia stepped onto the slope, and immediately the muddy bank gave way beneath her. She yelped as she tumbled, slid on her backside all the way down the slope before crashing into the water.
Alfronto cackled. Nadia splayed her hand and sent a small wave of water splashing over him.
'And YOU! You had me scared to death!'
Alfronto shook his head and put a hand on her shoulder.
'I'm f-fine, N-Nadia. B-but we sh-should probably g-get back to the T-Temple now. It's a b-b-bit c-cold, huh?'
Nadia nodded vigorously. 'No more f-falling over, ok-kay?'
Alfronto nodded too. No more falling over. His robes were soaked and muddy, and so were Nadia's. C2-N2 was going to go ballistic.