Home. A Dasha and Appius story

Mandalore
38 ABY
Middle of Nowhere

The ship rocketed through the atmosphere with a violence that only a vastly inexperienced pilot couldn’t handle. Falling to the ground like a comet, the Upsilon-class Command Shuttle suddenly lifted up before crashing into the planet and soared just above the coarse land before slowing to a complete stop, gently touching the ground before the ramp lowered to the outside world.

A Human stepped down onto the harsh, unforgiving terrain and stretched his arms and legs after the long journey from the Caelus System. He thanked the Force he chose to come at a time when the sun was beginning to set. What were usually hot and barren lands were blissfully cool as darkness began to descend upon the horizon. It left a pleasant orange hue which basked everything in its pleasant glow.

He was followed by a young, timid Sephi woman. She stroked her right arm tentatively as she quickly made her way down the ramp to join him at his side. She thanked her luck the pilot decided to remain in the ship, she wasn’t so confident around strangers.

“Here we are! Home sweet home!” the tall Human said as he spread his arms out in a dramatic pose. He shot her his best toothy smile as she glanced around at… well… nothing. No tree’s, no buildings, no sign of life as far as the eye could see. Nothing but rough, dry ground for mile after mile as far as the eyes could see.

“Ok, I realize it doesn’t seem like much, Dasha,” the Human said. “But this is my homeworld. Yep, that’s right. Welcome to Mandalore!”

This is Mandalore?

Even to her young mind, tales of the warriors of this system stretched throughout the galaxy. Mercenaries, soldiers, and credit hunters. Even during the Clone Wars and the reign of the Galactic Empire, they proved themselves to be fearsome. Hell, Appius wasn’t even the first Mandalorian she had ever met. That particular honour went to one particular sleemo that thought it would be funny to see how she handled a strong dose of alcohol. The answer, unsurprisingly, was not very well. Though at least she managed to get some sniper training out if it.

“Oh, cool,” Dasha said sheepishly.

“Cool?” the Human inquired. “Olaror bat, Dasha. It’s a wasteland and you know it!”

“Sorry, Appius.”

The Ektrosis Aedile rubbed the back of his head and sighed. Dasha’s confidence issues were an issue. An issue he intended to correct no matter what it took. Even as young and small as she was, she was deadly. She just needed to see it for herself.

“Is this really what your home looks like?” the young Sephi asked.

“For the most part? Yep,” Appius answered. Thankful that she was still willing to talk to him. “There were a few domed cities, but otherwise this is it. A result of generations of war and strife that for the most part has left the planet barren. Ironic isn’t it? Mandalore has produced some of the most legendary warriors the galaxy has ever known from Tarre Vizsla to Jango Fett, and yet basic irrigation is a logistical nightmare.”

Appius watched his young apprentice’s reaction. Even without the Force, the young Scavenger was fairly perceptive.

“There was some hope for a time with the New Mandalorians. But that didn’t last very long. Still, some settlements still exist from that time, albeit in secret.”

“Is that where you are from?”

Appius responded with a soft smile, but even despite it, Dasha could tell there was a hidden pain behind his expression. She hated seeing it, part of the man she met when she joined Taldryan was still in there somewhere, even behind the amber eyes and utter snark that most everyone else tended to see.

“Well, you wanted to know where I came from! You keep asking me questions, I thought it would be good to show you,” he said.

“But… we are in a desert?”

“Yep!” Appius replied. “Because I also had something else in mind.”

He pointed to the weapon at her waist, cylindrical in design and highly recognisable as the weapon of Jedi and Sith across the galaxy.

“That,” Appius said. “I’m going to teach you how to use that and I don’t want anyone interrupting us.”

Dasha’s heart dropped into her gut. She was going to get lightsaber training from a Force User, from her Master, from Appius!

“But I don’t want to hurt you.”

By Sephi standards she was still a teenager and her lack of confidence came to the surface full swing. Her body tensed, the sign of a young woman who had seen and experienced far too much. Abuse, neglect, self-worth issues and obviously, confidence. The woes of a hard start to life in an uncaring orphanage bared heavily on her shoulders like a pair of durasteel anchors dragging her down into the floor. These were all things Appius was very much aware of. Getting her to trust him was the first step, but if she was going to survive in the Brotherhood. She needed more experience, more confidence and above all else, she needed to move on from her past.

“Jala, trust me. I’ve been doing this a very long time. You won’t hurt me.”

She took a deep breath, his words calmed and soothed her. He had that effect. Like an older brother to a younger sister, he was perhaps one of the few men she trusted completely.

Ah, to hell with it!

If Appius had faith in her, then she would certainly try! She grabbed the hilt from her waist and held the weapon firmly in her right hand. She pressed the activation switch as a distinct green blade hissed to life. She steeled herself as she watched the Force user in front of her smile and retrieve one of his own weapons. His own emerald blade snapped out of the hilt and he smirked, ready to face her attack head-on.

“Good,” he said. “That’s much more like it!”

Dasha’s heart thumped hard in her chest as her mind was clouded with worry. She hasn’t really used this new tool before, but she knew to not touch the green, glowy blade. With a bit of fiddling, she decided a regular forward grip and basic stance was probably wiser. The lightsaber felt a bit heavier than her usual vibroblade, of which she had also brought along, as well as far less balanced between blade and hilt.

The young Sephi looked carefully at her Master to make sure he’s ready before hesitantly attempting a simple slash. Appius, on the other hand, raised an eyebrow at the weak attempt while just turning his wrist slightly to block the blow, “Come on now, I know you can do better than that!” while Dasha staggered in surprise at the screeching sound of the lightsabers.

She gritted her teeth and tried again, bracing her ears while doing the same slash but harder. Appius didn’t even move as his physical strength naturally held up the block.

Another slash came this time from her bottom right into an upwards slash. Appius easily tilted his lightsaber and parried.

Dasha dug into the memories of the last war where she saw various force users fight using their lightsabers and tried a few things, mimicking their various stances to make the blows work and adjusting as needed. This caused the Mandalorian to raise an eyebrow, but he fluidly adjusted to block and parry as the forms changed almost randomly. Soon, it was noticeable that some of the partially refined attacks were being strung together, known forms changing fluidly, but not without large holes throughout.

Sweat started to appear on her brows and clothes as the desert environment took its toll as her breathing grew heavier and her already great stamina was depleting. Appius didn’t seem to have really broken a sweat on the outside as he almost casually blocked or deflected each blow.

Epic

This was the kind of person Dasha was. Improvisational, resourceful, and a survivor. Even without the Force, the fact she was able to imitate parts of the seven forms of lightsaber combat was certainly impressive. Shii-Cho, Makashi, even some light Ataru and Djem So made it through, though it was obvious that these were imitations rather than the pure skill of a swordsman. Even so, there were Acolytes in the Shadow Academy that struggled to do such things, even despite the glaring flaws in her style.

However, there was one major problem.

“Dasha,” Appius said. The young woman raised her head to meet the look in his eyes. For the first time since they arrived, he looked deadly serious. A look that made butterflies dance in her stomach.

“Why are you fighting like that?”

The question confused the young woman. She’d watched Appius, Vodo, Rian, Erinyes as well as many more Force users in Taldryan fight with their signature weapons. She observed and learned from it and honestly? She thought it would make Appius beam with pride. This, after all, was something he knew an awful lot about. But the look on his face wasn’t that, and it rocked the young Sephi to her core.

“I… thought…” she said between gasps of air. Her lungs begged for oxygen amidst the Mandalorian sunset.

“You thought what? Thought that you could fight like a Force user without access to the Force?”

Her cheeks went a rosy red, and suddenly, she felt a whole lot smaller than she actually was.

“I’m sorry,” she said, her voice meek as she responded to him. She lowered her face and was suddenly unable to look him directly in his amber eyes.

“Dasha, do me a favour?” The Human said. He approached her and knelt beside her and gently placed his spare arm on her shoulder. She tensed at the touch and willed herself to look at him once again.

“Don’t try to be something you’re not.”

She turned away from him.

“Hey. It’s ok.” He said, rubbing her comfortingly like an older sibling.

"I’m trying to be better… " she interrupted.

“Better? Than what?” Appius inquired.

“Better than me.”

The words stung as she spoke like little knives across her soul. She felt water well up in her eyes as every single moment she felt worthless in her life flashes to the front of her mind.

Appius deactivated his lightsaber and sat next to her. He beckoned her to sit beside him and she followed suit, albeit hesitantly.

“Do you know why I took you on as my apprentice?”

She heard his question though remained silent. Truthfully, she hadn’t given it much thought.

“When I met you on Chyron, initially I saw nothing more than a frightened little girl trying to survive in the lowest slums of society. No family, no home, no hope. But you very quickly proved me wrong. Do you remember all those traps you set? And the weapons you attacked me with?”

She did, and she rubbed the back of her head sheepishly.

“The Force is dangerous, yes. But there is nothing more dangerous than someone who is intelligent and resourceful. Someone like you. Look at what you did in the war! I caught glimpses of a confident young woman in you, the real you. I know she’s in there waiting to give me an untold amount of hell when she gets out.”

Dasha chuckled and Appius could see he was finally breaking through to her.

“My point is… just be you. Because who you are is special. You don’t need to be anyone else. Ok?”

She sniffled and wiped her eyes before responding to him with a warm smile and a slight nod.

“Shall we get back to it?” Appius asked as he returned to his feet and drew upon his lightsaber once again. The emerald-coloured blade returned and he spun the saber haphazardly in his right hand before pointing it at the young woman.

Dasha jumped up to her feet with a spring of energy she didn’t think she had in her. She activated her own weapon and she leapt at Appius with newfound vigour in her bones.

That’s more like it. Appius thought.

Yet, she surprised him. Instead of attacking him directly, she moved around his flank she knelt down and grabbed a fistful of dirt before throwing it into the Sorcerer’s eyes.

“Agh! What the hell!?” He exclaimed.

She moved in with a horizontal swing towards Appius’ shin, but the Force was still with him and warned him of the attack. He deflected the strike aside and quickly gained some distance between himself and Dasha before she could strike again.

He squinted, his eyes irritated from the dust. Although he couldn’t help but smile.

This is MUCH more like it. He mused as he braced himself for her next trick.

Dasha side-stepped around her Master, cautiously going for openings as she saw fit. The lightsaber was definitely weighted differently than her own blades, but soon it started feeling more natural.

Using Appius’s temporary blindness, she picked up a few stones to toss back the way she came further and further to trick his sense of hearing that she backtracked before going for his shins again. Every single time she tried another trick, she became more and more surprised how he was able to deflect and parry everything.

She found a stick and decided to try dual-wielding, aiming to use the hum of the lightsaber to trick Appius into blocking an overhead strike from his flank just to smack his waist with the stick. Needless to say, Dasha ended up with half a stick that ended up being an incinerated projectile later.

Another trick was to just his movements to try to make him lose his footing in a shallow pothole in the ground. The Mandalorian knew his homeland well and that didn’t work well. Using her very marginally higher ground, she threw a stink bomb at him like a baseball which exploded on contact with Appius’s lightsaber and put him into a coughing fit.

Stink bombs? Really!?

He gagged profusely as the stench clung to him like an unwanted bounty on his head. Dasha immediately took advantage of Appius’ distraction and made her way further up a small hill. By the time Appius could concentrate on her once again, she was at the very top, gleaming down at him with a face splitting grin on her face.

“It’s over, Appius!” She cried. “I have the high ground!”

Appius glared daggers at her, his jaw went slack from the utter gall that his apprentice had.

“Oh, hell no! You are not doing this to me!”

Appius raised his spare arm and immediately, Dasha felt an invisible tug on her body. It was like a rope had wrapped itself around her as she flew off the top of the hill down towards Appius below.

Yet, despite her youth, despite her inexperience, Appius’ teachings began to get through to her. Instead of being frightened and scared at the possibility of injury, she held her lightsaber in front of her in an effort to defend herself from Appius’ attack. Green clashed on green as sparks flew between them. The young Sephi’s momentum halted as she fell back first onto the floor.

Then, just like that, she felt it again. The invisible grip on her body. Appius’ hand hovered over her and she felt herself yanked upwards a few feet, shifted into an upright position and tossed over to the side. She landed on her feet and stumbled a few feet before placing her hands tightly back onto her lightsaber hilt.

Appius smiled at her, and beamed with pride at the progress she had made in a night. If she kept this up, she would be a true threat to anyone who came up against her.

She readied herself, and prepared for whatever was about to come next. Yet, to her surprise, Appius deactivated his lightsaber and placed it back on his waist.

“Excellent. Much better. That fire, that determination, that creativity that only you have. That’s exactly what I am looking for.”

Dasha, in response, deactivated her own weapon. The glowing emerald blade retracted into the hilt as she carefully holstered it at her hip.

“Well, that’s it then for today. Let’s get out of here,” Appius said.

“Wait, that’s it?” Dasha replied.

“Well, yeah? What were you expecting?” The Sorcerer asked.

Dasha didn’t say anything in return. Her eyes darted down towards the floor.

In response, Appius sighed. He knew exactly what she wanted, what she always kept asking him.

Why did you leave?

He never gave her a straight answer. He never gave anyone a straight answer. But this time, he knew he had too. If she was going to trust him, he had to trust her. A relationship between a master and a student worked both ways, and Dasha was the last person he wanted to distrust him, especially after everything that had happened.

“Follow me,” he said as he brushed past her and waded into the desert. Concordia hung above in the sky, and the moon shone overhead in the cool Mandalorian night.

Was that how long they had been training for?

She followed closely to him, never saying a word as the ship they arrived in faded out of view. She wanted to ask where they were going. Inquire what they were going to do, but stayed silent. As did Appius, which was certainly uncharacteristic for him.

After a thirty-minute walk, the pair arrived at what appeared to be an old compound. It lay completely in ruins with scorch marks seared across the ground and rubble. But the most disturbing detail of all, were the charred skeletal remains that were dotted helplessly around the area.

“What is this?” The young Scavenger asked with a slight tremble in her voice.

“This, Dasha, is all that remains of my family. Clan Clars ran a weapons compound here with my brother, my only blood relative, in charge of the whole thing. It’s gone. All gone,” Appius forced himself to look at it, a stern reminder of what he is. “My father and I were attacked by a group of anti-force sympathisers when I was about fifteen years old, he died and allowed me to escape. After joining the Brotherhood and surviving the Lyra System, I finally summoned the courage to reconnect with them. I hadn’t seen my brother in twelve years, Dasha. I finally found my home again and then…”

Appius clenched his fists at his side, he shook and tensed whilst his lips quivered ever so slightly.

“It was all gone. I found out it was attacked. Again, because of me. Because of what I am. My home, my family. All gone. There was nothing left of it. I left to try and help, to stop this from happening but by the time I got here it was too late. I watched as fire swept over the land as smoke blackened the sky. I watched the Clan Clars servicemen and women burn like raw meat under the fire of everything they had built together. I stared helpless and alone whilst it all sunk in, that my brother was dead and I was once again all alone. It seems my destiny has come full circle, wouldn’t you say? No matter what, I’m always going to be alone…”

Dasha didn’t know what to say. What could she say? This was a completely different side of Appius than she had ever seen. He was always so forward, so full to the brim with determination and guts. It never seemed like anything bothered him, yet right here, right now, for the first time, Dasha saw underneath the surface, she saw underneath the mask he put in front of himself. Despite all of his power, he was still a man longing for somewhere to belong.

And for the first time, she saw the real him at his soul.

Dasha’s jaw loosened though she made sure her jaw wasn’t dropping by keeping her lips together. She couldn’t stop surveying the carnage in hopes that someone or something was still alive. The recent war had bothered her to start with, yet this seemed more… gruesome. It made her wonder about the other kids and what that bunk room in her own past looked like yet it made her shudder.

He was lost, just like she mostly is. He’s found where he was from, yet she couldn’t name the planet or system she was from. He was so close to finding his blood family yet this was what he found. Seeing how he is right now, was it worth it for her to search for her own?

She had no words to give to him even if she may only know part of his pain for she never even met her blood family, how could she know?

Dasha did the only thing she could think of, she moved in to his side and tried to give Appius a comforting hug.

Was the orphanage her temporary family in a way? Is Clan Taldryan her new family? She couldn’t decide on it in the past nor even currently.

What should she do now? They say it’s a good idea to bury the dead to allow them rest, yet she’s close to exhaustion with many graves to dig. How do you take care of remains such as these? Perhaps she should stick with digging.

She had been on the run for so long… just to escape; yet here is what Appius was running to only to be too late. Where was she running?

Dasha rested her cheek on his outer arm as her head started to hurt as she couldn’t figure out what to do or say.

Perhaps she could find a shovel on the ship and start digging early in the morning before Appius wakes up. Help at least her Master find some closure whereas she herself could not. Should she tell him her story now or find more information before then? The latter sounded like a better idea.

Maybe he just needed to hear a few words, honest ones of how she felt to someone she saw as an older brother figure as past father figures were always negative in her eyes. In a somewhat timid voice she stated, “I’m still here.”

Would it help him? She felt him turn to look at her briefly before turning back to look at the charred compound.

How far could everything go before he gave up entirely? He’d already done so once. What would it take to do it again? How soon would it be? He really was a ticking time bomb waiting to explode and he had no idea when or how and that fact truly frightened him, made him twitch and gave him nightmares. He hated that lack of control and yet as Dasha gave him a hug, he paused his train of thought. It was clear that the young Sephi wasn’t used to displaying this level of affection to anyone, never mind him.

A warm feeling resonated through the Sorcerer’s body as a slight comfort eased some of the tension he was unknowingly holding in his body. He didn’t fight against it, and it was at this moment, for the very first time in what felt like an eternity he saw a reason to exist, even if she was clinging to him awkwardly in a rather humourous fashion.

“Thank you…” he muttered. His words barely had any volume as he rubbed his face with the sleeve of his robe., though her sensitive ears picked them up clearly.

“You’re welcome,” Dasha tried as she removed herself from his side. “So… what now? Do we continue my training?”

Appius couldn’t help the smile that emerged on his face.

“No, not tonight. We’ll head back to the ship and get some rest. We’ll leave in the morning. I think we’ve done everything that we need to do here so we might as well head back to Chyron.”

The Mystic spun on the spot and began the long walk back to the ship they arrived in. Dasha hesitated for a second, glancing back at the Mandalorian compound with feelings of sorrow. Flashbacks entered her mind of her youth and she quickly shook them from her memory. Now wasn’t the time for this.right now, Appius needed her. She followed after him and made sure to mark the way back to the compound once he was asleep.


The Following Morning

With a giant yawn, the Force user awoke and rubbed his eyes. The events of the previous still weighed heavily on his shoulders though one thing was dead certain. This was the first decent night’s sleep he’d had in a long time.

With bags weighing under his eyes, he promptly dressed himself and retrieved his gear. He didn’t know what time it was, but he assumed it was late morning to early afternoon judging by the Mandalorian sunlight that beamed in through the cockpit of the ship. He approached Dasha’s makeshift bedroom for this endeavour and gently tapped on the door.

No answer. He tapped again, only to be met for silence once more.

“Dasha? Are you in there?”

After a few more seconds of not receiving an answer. He input the code to open the door and sure enough, she wasn’t there.

“Oh for crying out loud, Dasha!” He exclaimed, mentally cursing himself for sleeping for so long. He burst out of the ship and into the intense Mandalore desert. He closed his eyes and allowed the Force to connect him to the world. The wind gently brushed past his face as he tried to find any sign of her nearby.

Within the time it took to take a breath, he’d found her. Quite simple when Mandalore was nearly abandoned and they were the only life forms for miles around. Immediately he went wide-eyed as the realisation of where she was dawned on him.

Haar’chak, Dasha! What in hell are you doing back there!?”

With the Dark Side of the Force swirling within him, he used it to strengthen his legs as they propelled him across the desert like a rocket.


Clan Clar’s Compound
Fifteen Minutes Later

It didn’t take long for him to arrive, and despite the sweat that dripped down his face from the resulting heat and use of the Force, he found himself transfixed by what he saw.

Stone upon stone circled the compound in an intricate, meticulous pattern. Almost ritual in nature, but Appius knew what it meant. It was a massive grave marking. A sign of remembrance and respect to those now long gone and lost to his Clan.

He could see the young Sephi placing the final touches on her handiwork. Her skin cracked from the intense desert heat and her clothes were dusty and dirt-ridden from the manual labour. She quickly glanced over to him and dropped the stone she was holding out of shock.

She was a bit too tired and shocked to yip in surprise when she noticed the heavily breathing Appius. “Erm… good morning, Master.” She stood frozen otherwise with her hands still up holding some invisible rock.

Her hands didn’t seem to be bleeding yet though they were starting to be painful to the point where she numbed herself to the task in order to finish it. She was almost done! Why was he awake already and how did he find her?

Dasha stared unable to come up with something to say to her master whom was limiting his gasps for air from the exertion of his force-fueled sprint.

Her fingers twitched on her their and she realized the rock had fallen from her hands.

Appius, after taking in the situation and having enough time to recover, gently stated, “Dasha… did you… come here. Show me your hands.”

Without a word she cautiously strode over to her master carefully holding her hands just in front of herself while hiding her palms and insides of her grasp. He took a hand and turned it over to reveal not just cracked skin and her previously somewhat scarred skin, but also fresh small cuts mixed and dried with sand and dusted by the yellow grit sometimes criss-crossing each other and with a couple of welts as she had tried to tidy up the compound a bit.

His jaw was loose as he turned over her other hand to find the same thing. At this point, both of her hands were unconsciously quivering from the adrenaline of Dasha pushing past the pain to make the memorial. Looking around, she had turned some scrap into makeshift tools which likely also caused injuries as she used them.

He didn’t bring anything and quietly guided her over to a literal boulder she had shoved into place and moved her to follow a command mixed with various emotions, “Sit.”

Dasha obeyed then opened her mouth to start talking, “I didn’t–”

Appius cut her off while walking to the rock she dropped, “Wait.”

There was only a few rocks left to be moved into place as she had already tumbled them down a nearby hill. Appius easily hefted each into place as Dasha watched. She held her hands close and tried her best to shield them from the slowly warming winds that stung some of her open wounds.

It was his abilities as a force user that caused this and so he refused to float over the rocks into place. No, this had to be a personal touch just like the rest of his clan had used their hands to build their lives.

His hands were still fine afterwards save for a bit of sandy dust.

Appius went over and grabbed Dasha by the shoulders and helped her up. He understood why she did it, so all he could mumble was, “Thank you. Let’s go back to the ship and take a better look at your hands.”

Appius’s Ship
They were flying back to the Taldryan HQ thanks to the pilot droid. Home? Was that the right word for this?

Dasha grimaced as Appius tried to gently clean up her wounds. The first aid kit sat nearby and opened. There wasn’t any local anesthetic in the kit to help with her pain.

By the uncountable-th number of large twitches her hands shifted, Appius got impatient. He could rub too hard else some of the sand could get under her skin.

After what felt like an eternity, he finished up with some soothing healing salve and some thick bandages. Both of them thought this would have to do for now.

That was when Dasha’s stomach growled followed by Appius’s in response. With a chuckle, Appius got up to go rehydrate and warm some rations while Dasha tried to shrink in her seat in embarrassment.

The rations were nothing special. Bland, tasteless, dry and highly unsatisfying. Yet nutritious enough to feed a small army when push came to shove. Unfortunately, it seemed to be the only source of food left on the ship so it was just going to have to do until they got back to Chyron.

“Dasha, food is ready,” the Mystic declared as he threw the packets onto the nearby bench. As he looked to his apprentice she saw her irritable scratching on her bandages. Clearly, the healing salve and shoddy work they’d done on the bandages proved to be pointless. He sighed and knelt in front of her.

“Take off the bandages,” he said, which earned him a confused look from the Sephi.

“W-why?” she asked nervously.

“Just do it,” Appius ordered. She carefully removed the bandages off her hands, the linen ripping at her skin and burning them as she did so until they were exposed again.

“Give me your hands,” he then said. “Trust me.”

Despite her hesitation, she placed her hands in his as he clasped them together gently. She had no idea what he was doing at first but when he closed his eyes she felt the pain slowly begin to numb and ebb away. Relief filled the cuts and swelling for a few minutes until she couldn’t feel.it anymore. The Sorcerer released a deep breath and released her, his breath was now slightly ragged from whatever he just did.

She inspected her hands and saw that the cuts and swelling had… disappeared? How!? She went wide-eyed in astonishment.

“It’s… been a while since I’ve done that,” Appius said as he took the seat next to her.

“What… h- how did you…” Dasha stammered.

“The Force can do a lot of things, Dasha. It can destroy and burn something down to its bare molecule and repair it like it never happened. It can lift starships and buildings and invade the mind’s of others without so much as a care. But on some occasions, some very rare occasions, it can help and heal.”

The Scavenger listened to her Master talk with an astounded look on her face. She’d known about most of what Appius could do. Hell, he had a reputation in Taldryan as ‘Zappius’ after all, but this? She never knew about this.

“Have you always been able to do that?” she asked curiously as the Sorcerer shrugged his shoulders.

“For the most part,” he said. “You probably won’t believe me, but when I started in Vizsla I was a healer of all things. Had a little makeshift, off-the-grid healing facility for the injured. Funny how times change…”

Dasha didn’t respond initially and took a few seconds to let what he said sink in.

“I can believe it,” she finally soft with a softness in her tone.

“Really?” Appius questioned.

“Yeah, really,” Dasha confirmed. “You are a nice man.”

The Mandalorian suddenly burst into laughter as he was unable to contain himself.

“Thanks, Dasha. I appreciate that. But… I’m barely Mando’a anymore, my home is gone and I turned to the Dark Side. I’ve gotten into so many fights with so many people all their faces are just blurs at the back of my mind. I can’t wear the armor and right now everything just feels… empty? Cold? Numb? I’m not even sure… I just know that I’m no good anymore. Maybe I shouldn’t have come back. Maybe I should have stayed on Mandalore to rot away along with the rest of my aliit. It certainly feels like it.” Appius responded as his eyes slowly drifted towards the floor.

“It doesn’t always have to be that way,” Dasha said quietly. She watched as her master lacked any kind of response. His eyes seemed glossed over and lacked life within them.

“Things can get better,?” the young Sephi continued. “It did for me when you came along. I… I was an orphan… bad things happened and the one person I trusted was…” Dasha shook her head, this was not the time to let her emotions get the better of her. Her Master, no, her friend needed her, damn it!

“She was sold. I don’t know where she is or what she’s doing, but after that, I ran away. I lived on my own. I survived off of scraps and sweat, bled and cried myself to sleep at night. I didn’t know when my next meal was coming from. All I asked myself every day was how am I going to live? Was this my life? To be a thief? A street rat? I thought it was until I was taken away. I learned to kill, to survive, and to thrive.”

Appius raised his head slowly.

“You were an assassin?” he asked curiously. Dasha slowly nodded which confirmed his suspicions. “Huh, that explains some things.”

“I was sent to Chyron to do a job, kill some guy with a price on his head which I did, just to make her proud of me but… she never came back for me… I was all alone. Again. Used and tossed aside until you came along. You took me under your wing. Taught me to read and write, gave me confidence in myself and…”

“I left,” Appius interrupted.

“But you came back and that’s the difference, Appius. That’s what makes you, you in my eyes. When I need you, you always come back. Every. Single. Time.”

Appius didn’t respond at first but turned away from her.

“Maybe I can’t change your mind. But maybe someone else can? Maybe you’ll meet someone who can make you find your way again? Someone who understands and accepts what happened and who you are? I don’t understand this light or dark stuff… but… you never know right?”

“Dasha,” Appius answered as he gazed upon her with the most deadpan expression that he could muster. “Somehow, I highly doubt it.”

Suddenly the ship’s terminal rang out and the robotic sound of the pilot droid resonated throughout the ship.

“Aedile, we are approaching, Chyron,” it said monotonously.

“Oh good, maybe we can get a decent meal instead of that kark over there!” the Human declared as he stormed off to the back of the ship. Dasha remained there and looked at the now more than likely cold ‘kark’ that stank up the room in a foul odour. Without waiting any further, she rose to her feet and followed her master to the back of the ship, secretly happy she didn’t have to eat that stuff herself.

*** Some days later ***

Dasha double checked her gear. Appius had invited her on a bounty hunt on Nar Shaddaa and she was in a pretty happy mood. They were leaving this early morning for the hutt-controlled moon and she already picked up a to-go meal from the cafeteria for herself. The last thing that went on was her cloak, large enough to cover her and shelter her, a staple in travelling especially to blend into the crowd.

The target is said to be someone that was to be delivered to an ‘organization’ of sorts on the same planet and hinted that he had defected from them. Dasha’s role was to help spot the target in the relatively crowded city.

She made sure she arrived at the ship with plenty of time to spare while Appius was just outside double checking the logs; her ears perked up while her hood was down, “Good morning!” before half skipping into the ship.

Even though she was excited, she lightly napped as Appius was just completely out as they travelled. Dasha might only be able to guess why.


*** Nar Shaddaa ***
Dasha stayed close to Appius’s side as they walked from the parked ship towards the last known location of the target. On the way, Appius could sense how tense she is even though outwardly she seemed fine. Her eyes darted about more than normal but that could easily just be nerves and taking in the urban sprawl.

It was when they were on some random street did Dasha just stop. She was looking to their left as she stood frozen. Appius turned and took careful steps towards her, sensing her increasing fear. Once he was close enough, he tried to gently call out to her, “Dasha? Is someth–” but she took off back towards the ship at breakneck speed and somehow avoiding trouble.

Perturbed, Appius looked down the street where Dasha’s stare was to see a large old building weathered with age and a small playground outside and some false grass, the entire property was enclosed with fencing.

Appius kept his senses trained on Dasha as she retreated to the ship. He was tempted to follow her back, to check on her and make sure she was fine. But then he remembered she was recently promoted. She was a Major now and as such, could handle herself just fine.

Still, he kept his senses on her until she was back in the relative safety of the ship. Appius knew Nar Shaddaa all too well, his time working for the Hutt’s here before joining the Brotherhood lingered at the back of his mind. The putrid smells of sewage in the streets, the sights and sounds of gang violence settling disputes over territory as blasters rang through the air in the far distance. The Hutt’s may have secured his safety, but he always slept with one eye open.

He didn’t miss it, not one bit.

Appius involuntarily shuddered. But with Dasha back at the ship and no-one inside the building, this was as good a chance as any to get the answers they needed. He casually paced up the stairway until he reached the front door. A huge archway stood above whilst splinters decorated the wooden entrance in front of him. He placed one gloved on the metal door handle and gently pulled.

Nothing. Even with the terrible state of the outside, all of the orphanages budget went on decent locks. Then again, considering where he was, that was probably a good idea.

His right hand hovered over the handle as the locking mechanisms within began to twist and move together.

“Come on…” Appius muttered until finally, an audible click brought a smirk to his face.

There we go! The Sorcerer thought as the door opened ever so slightly. With the Force, he pulled it open the rest of the way just enough to slide in.

What greeted him inside was nothing short of old and decrepit. Cobwebs and dust littered almost everything, filling the air in any direction he turned his head. It was times like this that he was glad he was wearing a helmet. Especially one like this which held a wireless connection to his datapad.

He carefully took his first steps in the abandoned building, his footsteps creaked on the wooden floorboards as he inspected the information he had through his T-shaped visor, data flashing before his eyes, letters and sentences forming in front of his face.

Unfortunately for Appius, nothing particularly useful graced his sights. The orphanage ran for approximately fifty years, taking in rejected youths, rehabilitating, educating, and finding them new homes. For the most part, it was highly successful, credited even for excellent service. So the question remained, what went wrong? And what did this have to do with Zilar? Their target for this endeavour.

The second question at least had some sort of answer. Zilar had a connection to this place. Being that she was one of many orphans that ran up and down these hallways, the Mandalorian hoped there would be some sort of clue here as to what happened to her, some small detail as to what happened to her and where she went. Yet as he traversed the building, he found nothing. A kitchen filled with old and mouldy crockery, a bedroom with sheets that hadn’t been changed in years, a classroom so lost to time it was like looking into a time capsule. What did catch Appius’ attention, however, was the sorry state of each room he entered. Each seemed to be getting progressively worse until he found a stairway leading down into the basement. He paced towards the small door, ducking his head under the archway lest he accidentally bumps his head against it.

He’d done that one too many times in his life, like hell he was doing it again right now.

Opening the door, darkness was the first thing that greeted him and to answer this sudden lack of vision, the Sorcerer grabbed hold of the lightsaber hilt at his side and flicked the ignition switch. An emerald blade shot out of one end with a snap-hiss and illuminated his surroundings in a vibrant green glow.

“Let’s see here…” Appius muttered to himself. It appeared that the basement was a storage area of sort judging by the collection of empty boxes and ruined crates that scattered the floor. Most of it had been ransacked, either when the place closed or by smugglers and thieves that had entered since then.

The Ektrosis Quaestor stood up straight after rummaging through yet another trashed box. With a frustrated grunt, he kicked the wooden crate haphazardly with his left foot. It shook and knocked into a pedestal which shook something down from a ledge up above. Small and rectangular, it landed in the box with a soft thud.

Appius reached into it and wiped the front of the leather-bound object as a cloud of dust obscured his vision. When it cleared, he realised he’d inadvertently hit the jackpot, this small little notebook was a ledger, and as his fingers flickered through the first few pages, his high hopes began to sink faster than a sandpit on Tatooine.

He flickered through the pages, faster and faster. Every single one was the same, just with different names with one word next to each of them. He paused and held his breath when he arrived at a pair of names that seemed oh so familiar to him.

Jala Zilar.

And then underneath…

Dasha Talus.

Both names were followed by a single word.

Dwana.

It was Huttese, and it meant they were sold into slavery.

*** Appius’s Ship - Dasha ***
Dasha hid in a corner of a bunk she was temporarily using with a thick blanket wrapped around her. She was shaking as she remembered her experience at that orphanage. All she knew was that they came around here to find someone by the name ‘Zilar’ yet no other information about the person was given. The only person whom she knows for sure made it out of that place was her self-adopted sister Jala, granted it was not in a great way.

Her ears perked up as she heard someone enter Appius’s ship, has her Master returned? It has been a while.

Something in her felt off as the footsteps sounded… different. Was he hurt? No, it just sounded heavier like they were carrying something heavy yet the gait was somewhat off.

*** Appius’s Ship - Ria’d ***

The intruder, a Force-user Zabrak, had recognized Dasha through the Force. When she landed on the planet his hopes were rekindled as perhaps there was one last lead to find the person he’s searching for!

Yet, just as the slave traders blocked him from getting close, the young Sephi orphan, whom had escaped the massacre, was incredibly elusive.

He felt giddy with luck as he tracked her through the Force to this ship. It wasn’t difficult to play with the lock and enter. Though, now he’s closer he’s sensing… fear, lots of it.

He entered the room Dasha had cocooned herself on her bunk in and knelt by the bed spotting the tips of 2 pointed ears protruding from a bundle of a warm blanket.

Gently, he spoke, “Hello there.”

*** Orphanage - Appius ***

His comm-link went off soon after he spotted the entries in the journal. His droid had sent him an urgent message, ‘Intruder Alert.’ Moments later, he felt that his apprentice had even more fear.

The journal went into a secure pocket as he ran outside and activated his jetpacks to fly at full throttle back to the ship, lightly singing the old front doors in the process.

Please don’t see me, please don’t see me, please don’t see me, PLEASE DON’T SEE ME!

The young Sephi’s ears twitched just outside the blanket fort she made for herself, her fear causing an involuntary shiver beneath them. She ignored this strange man’s greeting and prayed against everything he was stupid enough to just take the hint and leave her alone.

“Dasha Talus?” the same gentle, soothing voice asked. “It’s ok, I’m not going to hurt you.”

The Major still daren’t move as she dug herself into her bed like she’d melt into it.

“I’m going to take the blanket off now, ok?”

Dasha voiced a small squeak when the soft and warm material was pulled from her. She shut her eyes and daren’t look at what may be in front of her. With nowhere to run all she could do was wait for the inevitable.

“My, you certainly haven’t changed much, have you? Then again, Sephi’s age at a slower rate than most, don’t they?” The man spoke with an ease and calmness to him, like an uncle that hadn’t seen his niece in a long time. “I know you can hear me. Your ears are twitching.”

The Scavengers ears moved on their own again like they were their own sentient being. There was something familiar about his voice, and it sent flashes of her time at the orphanage to the forefront of her consciousness. She slowly opened her eyes and blinked as the light of the ship pierced into her retinas. Her gaze turned to the cloaked figure that remained standing at the edge of her bed with his arms folded across his chest. He was almost as tall as Appius, and shared a pale skin complexion that was almost the same as the Humans. However, where this man was different was the lack of hair atop his head, the horns atop his scalp were just about visible even under his hood. He was bulkier than her master if only slightly, but it was noticeable as could be told by his well-toned facial features. Dasha gazed into a pair of silvery eyes that glimmered like a moon upon the waters of a lake. The Sephi felt the lump form in her throat, but she forced herself to swallow it as she opened her mouth to speak.

“R-Ria’d?” She stuttered, her voice barely any louder than a whisper.

The Zabrak’s lips curved into a sweet smile as he gave a slight nod.

“It really has been a while, hasn’t it? You have no idea how happy I am to see you alive,” he said with his imperial accent lacing every word carefully as suddenly, the smile on his face turned into a frown.

“I’m so sorry this has happened to you,” the Jedi apologized. “I swear I will make it up to you. I will get you out of here. No-one deserves to live in servitude.”

The Zabrak, now identified as Ria’d, returned to the open corridor of the ship before turning around to check on Dasha. The young girl was understandably dumbfounded by his presence, and he offered another small smile to ease her worries.

“I just need to find out who’s ship this is. I’ll be back in a moment.” Ria’d finished as he turned his attention towards the cockpit of the ship. If the owner took in Dasha as a slave then it stood to reason that they may have information pertaining to the whereabouts of Jala herself. It was a long shot, and every lead he had on Nar Shaddaa over the last year had bled dry, but this was the first chance he had to correct a wrong. He could be there for them now when he should have been on that fateful night when the orphanage burned.

“Ria’d, wait! You don’t understand!” Dasha pleaded as she leapt from the safety of her bed towards the rest of the ship.

The Zabrak took exactly two steps towards the front of the ship when he felt a klaxon roar through his subconscious. He spun on the spot to face whatever danger threatened him, but was immediately pulled out of the ship by what felt like an invisible tether that wrapped around his body. The young Sephi’s scavenger recoiled back into the doorway and watched the Zabrak’s body fly past her peripheral vision and down the ramp to the outside world.

Ria’d hit the dusty Nar Shaddaa soil with a hard thud and rolled across the surface. For the most part, his armor protected him from the friction though as he quickly discovered, that was the least of his worries.

Snap-Hiss!

An emerald coloured blade exploded into sight, wielded by a crimson-armoured Mandalorian that raised it above his head and brought it down hard upon the Defender.

In his moment of desperation, the Jedi summoned the Force and let it pass through his muscles. He pushed himself off the ground before the saber decapitated him and spun through the air before landing on his feet, only then noticing the tear in his cloak where the green blade cleaved through it.

“You’ve made a terrible mistake, Jetii!” the Mandalorian roared as he raised his left arm towards the Defender. Lightning danced and hissed between his fingertips before streaks of white and blue soared towards Ria’d. Instead of moving, the Jedi simply remained where he was and closed his eyes, for he raised his own hands to meet the deadly streaks with a resolve even Appius could respect.

However, instead of striking the Jedi and hearing his shrieks of anguish like the Sorcerer expected, the lightning surged around the Defender and dissipated inches away from the Ranger’s body.

Appius halted his assault and launched himself at the Jedi with reckless abandon. Ria’d retaliated by unsheathing his own weapon as green and blue crashed into each other. Sparks jittered as the sabers dug into one another with neither able to gain ground over the other.

The Sorcerer attacked low only to be met by the Jedi’s perfectly timed defensive manoeuvre, and no matter what Appius did he couldn’t find a way through the Defender’s lackluster attempt at a defense. Yet, that was when he smirked behind his visor.

“Just going to defend, eh?” the Quaestor voiced.

“Stop this!” Ria’d exclaimed. “I don’t want to fight you!”

The Zabrak’s words fell on deaf ears as a second green blade ruptured out of the other side of the Taldryanite’s hilt, which immediately pressed the tall Defender back onto the defensive. Ria’d gritted his teeth together as the twin-bladed assault threatened to cut through his closely guarded movements.

“So that’s your plan, is it? You want to be my personal punching bag until I finally break through?”

Appius’ declaration rang through the Zabrak’s ears, and resulted in Ria’d deciding to utilize his weapon to its fullest defensive capacity. As the Dark Side user spun his saberstaff to cut his opponents head from his shoulders, a second blue blade ruptured out of the Jedi’s weapon and parried the incoming attack.

To his credit, the Ektrosis Quaestor remained unfazed by this and continued his assault. A roar boomed from the jetpack attached to his back as he propelled himself over the Defender. When Appius landed behind the Zabrak, Ria’d spun to meet his attack head-on only to be hit by a pulse of energy that erupted from the Sorcerer’s outstretched hand. The Jedi careened across the tough Nar Shaddaa surface, the wind howling through his ears until he crashed into a series of boxes and crates that tumbled on top of his frame. Appius began to approach, an obsession brewed within him to end this Jedi’s life by any means necessary. Crimson-yellow eyes glistened behind his visor as electricity sparked between his fingertips. He approached Ria’d from a cautious distance as the Jedi pulled himself out of the wreckage, his cloak in tatters as it fluttered in the gentle breeze as he readied himself for the attack.

“Appius! Ria’d! STOP!”

All the malice and malcontent the Quaestor held in his heart vanished in an instant. The electricity between his fingers died and both Force Users turned to look to the young Sephi girl that yelled the remark, for tears rolled down her eyes at the brutality on display.

“Dasha? What did you just say his name was?” Appius asked with shock and disbelief in his tone.

Dasha was frozen except for her ears that slowly lifted up, the vague memory of the Zabrak in front of her being recalled. He was kind, a rare one that had visited them all those years ago at the orphanage. Her mood darkened again as she remembered the orphanage and what happened there causing her eyes to glass over a bit in fear.

By the time she realized the Jedi was going to head towards the cockpit to try to talk to Appius, she quickly tried to figure out what he wished to talk about. She scrambled to follow him and get his attention only to need to throw herself backwards as the robed figure flew backwards and out of the ship.

Her ears picked up on each sharp clash of lightsabers immediately following and a chill went down her spine. Her legs moved on their own as she dashed to the door out of the ship, yelling for the men to stop, one fear eclipsing the previous.

While Appius was stupefied, Dasha repeated, “Ria’d!”

Ria’d in turn paused before asking, "Appius? Appius Wright? My brother in arms?. He studied and walked towards the Mandalorian in front of him, “Yes… faint but you still are you, but why? Why have you fallen?”

Appius spoke, almost growling, back while taking aggressive steps towards Ria’d, “You don’t know what I’ve been through! You of all people.”

The Jedi shook his head, “But Appius, slavery? Really now?”

“What the heck are you talking about? She’s my apprentice!”

“You and I both know she doesn’t have enough to use the force. That and she doesn’t appear to be Mandalorian.”

Appius facepalmed and failed to keep the frustration from his voice as he explained, “I’m the Quaestor of House Ektrosis of the Taldryans. She is in my House. She is also my apprentice.”

“You know that I can sense the dark side in you. You had so much hope. So much potential.”

Dasha on the other hand watched the back and forth, failing to interject a few times. Causing her ears to lower and point outwards in frustration.

“Why the heck are you so focused on me following the dark side now?! Come to think of it, what are YOU doing here?” Appius exclaimed while jabbing a finger into the Jedi’s chest.

Ria’d was about to answer when both of them felt the Force roaring a warning. Both force users leapt back a couple of strides each and their lightsabers flashed to life again to defend themselves as an explosion went off. Ria’d hit a few glimmering specks while Appius had some of his vision obscured by glitter, the latter sighed and called out, “Dashaaaaa!”

Dasha stood just out of range with her arms crossed and foot tapping the ground, waiting impatiently with her ears pinned in annoyance, “I don’t like it when you 2 talk like that to each other.”