“Party?” Yipped Tyraal in confusion. “Master, why–!”
But she was already gone. Disappeared into her room, the door sliding down behind her as if signalling that the padawan was out of time to argue. He huffed discontentedly, sounding more like a pack animal than human, and then turned away towards his own room. He stepped into the dark setting, toned with dim blacks, greys, and browns, to his suited dusky color preference. He collapsed onto the bed, staring at the black ceiling. A beep later, and a holo-projection of stars illuminated themselves. Tyraal grinned with little amusement.
“Thanks Seven,” He muttered. The green and orange astromech could hear his disapproval, but kept his projector focused on the heavenly celestials. Tyraal groaned and sat up, rolling and cracking his neck in impatience. What he wanted to get in the field; test his wings; prove he was worthy of Master Aura’s teachings, trainings, and trust; but here he was, sitting on his bed in the gloom of his suite.
He pursed his lips in annoyance as he rose from the bed, and switched on the lights. He turned his head, unintentionally, towards a wardrobe (more for decorative purposes than for actual clothes housing) and his eyes fell on a holoprojector. With a sigh crossing of reluctance, agony, need, and angst, he crossed the room and took the projector. He sat on the floor, legs crossed, and he turned on the device. A projection of a planet popped into existence. A wave of depression, pride, sickness, and general misery washed over him. With a miserable finger, he moved to the next projection: another planet. Next projection: Theed city. Next projection–
He broke down and wept. The holoprojector fell from lifeless hands and clattered to the floor. The face of the projection winked out. He pulled his knees tight against himself and cried, rocking himself.
Aura rapped on the doorframe and entered. She saw Tyraal seated at his desk, mindlessly tossing a ball from hand to hand.
“Ready?” She asked, with a healthy dose of anticipation and excitement. Tyraal glanced up, briefly and looked back down. Briefly. Aura noticed. Tyraal set the ball on the table and rose from his seat.
“You don’t look festive,” Commented Aura disapprovingly. He wore his brotherhood robes, with the brand of Odan-Urr across the shoulders.
“I don’t do parties.” Tyraal replied. A slight, almost imperceptible quiver. A tenseness in the neck. A slight hardness in his jaw. Aura read him easier than the report on the mission he hadn’t yet glanced at.
“What.” She spoke. She didn’t ask. She commanded. His eyes shifted microscopically. “You’re angry Tyraal. Why?” She followed his unwarranted gaze.
“What have you seen? What did you do?” Tyraal’s jaw hardened. “Answer me Tyraal!” She gripped his shoulders-- and stared as Tyraal melted in her grip. He crumbled to the floor, tears once again running down his cheeks.
“What–? Tyraal!” Aura sat down, hugging her apprentice tightly against her. “What happened?”
He quietly wept in her arms. She looked at the projector, and then at the astromech in the corner, watching with obvious concern.
“Show me the projection.” She ordered the droid.
“It’s home,” Stammered Tyraal, gasping painfully for breath. Aura hesitated.
“Are you homesick, Tyraal?” She asked, gently.
“No!” He drew in another wracking breath, and they both knew he was lying. “I’m not!”
Aura sat there, feeling every tinge of her apprentice’s misery. She gently pushed her happiness to him, pained by his pain. The two sat there, him crying, her sharing her contentedness, her happiness with him.
Almost hours passed, it felt like, until Aura could feel Tyraal’s heart slow, and his breathing go normal. She rose to her feet and took his arm and helped him up also.
“You feel better?” She asked, gently. He nodded, sniffling with very red, watery eyes. He blinked a few times.
“Good.” She put her arm around him as she guided him to the door. She glanced discreetly at the projector on the wardrobe and contemplated grabbing it to look at later.
“Master, where are we going?” Tyraal’s drawn voice quaver interrupted her thoughts.
“To a very special spot,” she replied, enigmatically.
The slightly throbbing lights and low music was the first to catch Tyraal’s eye. The tears were gone, and he was much more like his normal self.
“Red Twilight?” He asked cynically. “Sounds more like a reference to a Sith meditation.”
“It does.” Replied Aura, with a slight shudder. Tyraal raised an eyebrow slightly.
“Why is it called that?” He asked quickly, trying to get away from the clearly unwanted subject.
“Well……” She started, but someone gripped her shoulders and yanked her back. Tyraal whirled, lightsaber ready. He snarled and then relaxed when he saw Aura kissing her assailant.
“Hello handsome,” Said Aura, leaning back and grinning, ruffling her assailant’s hair.
“Is this….?” Asked Tyraal, slowly lowering his blade.
“Teikhos.” Answered both Zeltrons in synchronized voices. Tyraal blinked.
“A pleasure?” He commented, extinguishing his lightsaber and slowly lowering it to his hip.
“You don’t sound sure of yourself. You didn’t tell me I had competition,” Teikhos said, glancing significantly at Aura. She guffawed.
“Stop it!” She playfully pushed him away and turned to Tyraal. “Ignore him. Let’s go.”
“Uh, no.” Replied Teikhos. “I reserved the suite.”
Aura gasped, and Tyraal honestly wondered if this was further sarcasm or genuine surprise and delight.
“Yep. So, not that door.” Teikhos stepped out the main door to cross the street.
Aura bounced after him, leaving Tyraal blinking in half bemusement and half irritation. He shook his head and decided to let the evening just pass over his head. He had a mission to attend to, which would keep him mentally occupied all night. Just have a few drinks, and wrap a mind around the mission. He could call 7V to come join him at the club so he could hear the details. He followed Aura and Teikhos, who were currently very intimately and aggressively kissing each other in front of the double doors to the Red Twilight Suite. He came up, and the two broke off and looked at him.
“Officially,” said the Zeltron, extending a hand. “I’m Teikhos Seleukides.”
“Tyraal Bitshiver,” Replied the human, gripping the hand.
“Charmed to finally meet you.”
“I’m glad to see Aura has you, and isn’t merely too damned buoyant with her life.”
Teikhos’ lip twitched slightly, and then smile genially again.
“And why do you say that?” He asked. Tyraal’s hair stood on his neck.
“Observation through training.” He answered, unnerved by the overwhelming and disconcerting feeling of attraction and distrust. “Please quit the pheromones.”
Immediately the appeal stopped.
“I apologize,” said Teikhos. “I was just trying to help us get along.”
“Noted.” Quipped Tyraal.
“Boys, boys, please,” Cut in Aura. “Can we just have a good time?”
Teikhos stepped toward the door, and bowed Tyraal and Aura in. They stepped through.
“How did you afford this?” Asked Aura, cozied up to Teikhos at the bar.
“We split the check,” Her companion answered.
At Aura’s voice, a dozen voices cheered and rushed over. Tyraal froze in the doorway as Aura was swamped with Zeltron fans. Various cries of “Aura!!” and “I’ve missed you!!” emerged from the mass. Several hundred hugs and love punches and playful slaps later, the crowd split into individuals. They all, almost in unison, looked concernedly at Tyraal, who stood in discomfort.
“By the stars, is he yours Aura?” Asked one, whispering in a voice audible for all.
“This is Tyraal,” Aura said quickly, stepping to him and pulling him in by the arm. “My padawan apprentice.”
They all gave a collective “ooooh”, and several giggled.
“Let me introduce you Tyraal,” Said Aura gently. “This is Nils, that’s Grejor, that’s…”
Tyraal lost it at Nils, trying to keep up with who Aura was pointing at. The various skin hues from pink to deep crimson, and hair from black to pale blue was mesmerizing and disconcerting at the least for him.
“And Sanah,” Aura concluded, gesturing to the last one. She glanced at Tyraal. “I’m sorry if this is overwhelming–”
“It is a bit.”
“I thought I pushed you too hard earlier. I wanted you to relax.” Tyraal slowly exhaled.
“Alright, master Aura.”
“That doesn’t sound relaxed…” She muttered.
“I’ll try.” Tyraal returned with a touch of heat. Aura sighed.
“Respect, apprentice.” She spoke, simply. “I’ll let it pass for today because of circumstances, but have respect.”
The atmosphere was thick with emotion. So thick, it felt that one could cut it with a vibroknife. The Zeltrons broke ranks, several returning to tables, talking, others tagging along with Aura and Teikhos. Three moved toward Tyraal, still standing irritated in the middle of the floor.
“I’m Nils,” Said the first, introducing himself again. His skin was a deep red and his hair shone black. A fine male specimen. “I’m not sure if you caught that when Aura was introducing us all; you looked a little…”
“Bewildered,” Supplied the second, a female with blue-black hair and light pink flesh. “Teikhos just told us to come and help out a friend so we all came along.”
“She’s Fessa,” Prompted the third, another girl with blue hair and medium pink skin. “And I’m Grehas.”
“Nils, Fessa, Grehas…” He murmured, analyzing them each for several seconds. “I apologize if I forget your faces among the others.”
Fessa looked a bit hurt by his statement, but Nils nodded.
“Most people can’t tell us apart when they’re first introduced. After a few days, we’ll all look as distinct as your own kind.”
“I’m not sure if I’ll have a few days,” Tyraal answered. Grehas gasped.
“No. We’ll keep you here if we have to.” She replied, firmly. She smiled. “We want to get to know you. You’re always with Aura; she’s a Zelton, and we all try to know everyone’s everyone.”
“Quite the list to keep track of,” Tyraal answered.
Nils and Fessa turned and vanished among the throng of Zeltrons, while Grehas talked with Tyraal for a bit.
“How long have you been with Aura?” She asked, as she guided him to a table.
“About eight months.”
“Is that how long you’ve been a jedi?”
“No, my former master disappeared. They never told me what happened to him.”
“What was his name?” She asked, as Nils returned with several drinks.
“Lithar?” Asked Nils, halting abruptly. “Andaris?”
“Yeah,” Said Tyraal, sitting up. “What happened to him?”
“If Aura hasn’t told you, that might be best,” He replied.
“Come on Nils,” Shot back Tyraal. Nils grinned.
“You remembered the name to my face,” he said, neatly evading the question.
“Okay, okay.” Nils sat down, laying the plate of drinks down. “The most that I, me myself, can tell you is that he abandoned Odan-Urr.”
“He what?” Asked Tyraal, leaning forward onto the table.
“Left Odan-Urr.” Answered Nils. “And that is all that I can tell you.”
“And why is that?”
“Because I don’t know, and if I did, I’m not sure if I would be cleared to.”
Tyraal grimaced, his lips setting into a hard line.
“Oh my, what’s going on here?” Asked a voice, as two females and a male sat down. “You guys are giving off way too much tension.” She looked at Tyraal. “Remember me?”
“Fessa.” He answered.
“Yay! I’d like a little more enthusiasm next time, but at least you recognize me.”
“I’m Tirin, and this is my twin Twaea,” Said the male. Tyraal sighed, analyzing their faces for a moment.
“This is going to be a long night…” He muttered.
“Have a drink,” suggested Nils, handing out drinks.
The mood changed. The more drinks, the more merry. Aura and Teikhos had disappeared, probably enjoying some quiet alone time. Tyraal and the others were all in a group, laughing, cheering, enjoying themselves. Nils sat on the outskirts, the most straight headed of them all. Tyraal was almost intoxicated, between the pheromones electrifying the air and the alcohol. Outside the lights were getting lower, while the spirits in the Red Twilight Suite were ever rising.
They had all figured themselves out: Sanah and Twaea were Tyraal’s; Nils and Grehas had been a couple almost the same day that Tyraal and Aura had become master and apprentice. The others were paired off in their fashions. The night was deteriorating to statements, laughter, dares, and more laughter. It had been several hours since the icy introduction they had had with Tyraal, and it seemed now like they had all been together since birth. The night wore on longer, not gravely wounded by Nils decision to stop the alcohol flow.
“What do you do with yourself, Nils?” Asked Tyraal, sipping at a sobering brew Nils had handed him.
“Not much.” He answered. “I tinker, I gamble–”
“Gamble too much,” Cut in Grehas. The five of them laughed.
“Only according to you,” Nils returned, grinning.
“There’s no harm in running your chances,” Added Tyraal. “You see how well you’ve mastered your guessing, and maybe make something along the side.”
They had split away from the group, to better help Tyraal’s recovery. Nils and Grehas were seated on the bed while Tyraal was propped against the wall, with Twaea and Sanah lying against him.
“If he loses all his money in the excuse of educating himself, that’s no gain!” Replied Grehas with a fiery huff.
“Ah, but what if I don’t lose it all?” Asked Nils innocently. Tyraal burst into laughter. Grehas’ fine eyebrow arched downward.
The quintet was interrupted by a shriek from the other room. They all jolted. Nils and Tyraal leapt for the door. They burst into the main room, where a handful of armored figures stood, holding the Zeltrons at gunpoint. The one obviously in command eyed Nils and Tyraal.
“A human. Finally something that isn’t red.” He raised a blaster, and Tyraal snarled.
“What do you want?” He growled.
“Well I came here to get my prize,” Answered the Dug boss. “But seeing some Zeltron girls here, I could make some cash with the Twi’leks I’ve got on my ship.”
Nils growled. Tyraal ignited his lightsaber. The Dug and his goons stepped back unconsciously, aware of the lightsaber buzz. The Dug sized up Tyraal for a moment: messy tunic, pale; he laughed. A disgusting, hideous chuckle. And then Nils activated his lightsaber. The two yellow blades extended, and the goons yowled.
“Since when are you a Jedi?” Queried Tyraal, blinking at Nils.
“Since before you’ve been here,” Replied the other. The other doors opened, and Aura and Teikhos burst out.
“Well this is fine!” Snapped the Dug. “All I want is what’s mine!” He snarled as Sanah appeared in the doorway. Her red hue paled to a sharp pink. She turned and bolted back into the room.
“What do you mean ‘yours’?” Seethed Tyraal.
“Tyraal….” Said Aura warningly.
“I mean I own her!” Roared the Dug, raising the blaster.
He fired, and Nils and Tyraal rushed. Aura’s lightsaber flew to her hand as she threw herself into the mix. Somewhere a white lightsaber ignited and swung at Tyraal. Amid the chaos and blaster fire, Tyraal found himself sparring with a very real enemy who was not trying to test him. He defended, backpedaling to recover himself for an offensive. Blaster bolts flew around madly as a mob from outside rushed into the suite. Tyraal locked blades and was thrown back, over the bar. Aura snarled and charged the attacker, and they sparred, Aura clearly the superior of the two. Teikhos had a few of the Zeltrons grab dropped blasters and they were now firing.
Two more lightsabers ignited, and Nils engaged them both. Several loud zaps of stun bolts could be heard, accompanied by surprised groans as their victims dropped to the ground. One being Aura.
“Master!” Shouted Tyraal amid the ruckus.
The white-lightsaber wielding Duro pushed off the wall from where Aura had her cornered. Tyraal lunged, and was thrown into the wall by another. His lightsaber flew from his hand. He landed in a crouch, his vibroknife falling from his sleeve to his hand. He threw the blade into one, recalled it with the Force, and thrust it upward into his current assailant’s chest. He left the blade where it was and reached for both his lightsaber and Aura’s with the Force. They both flew to his hand and he leapt at the Duro, blades igniting together.
“Tyraal!” Thundered both Teikhos and Nils.
Tyraal ignored them, attacking his opponent. He had trained himself to an extent with a lightsaber and a vibroblade, but he wasn’t quite prepared for two lightsabers. However, he was capable enough to overwhelm his opponent into retreating into another room. The more swings he took, the more the clumsiness began to leave. His blades flew more in coordination than in singularity. Teikhos burst in behind, flanked the Duro and stabbed twice with a lightsaber, in the shoulder and hip.
The Duro whined and keeled backward. Teikhos glared at Tyraal.
“What are you doing?!” He hissed.
“Trying to save lives in this situation!” Shot back Tyraal.
“Aura explicitly told me you weren’t capable of using two blades! What are you thinking?!”
Tyraal growled and didn’t answer, returning to the main room where Nils was cornered with two lightsaber wielding opponents. Tyraal extinguished Aura’s lightsaber, clipping it to his belt, and rushed to Nils’ aid. He sliced through one, and caught the blade of the other for Nils to deliver a killing blow. A silence reigned in the room for a moment before an abrupt cheer flew up from the Zeltrons, minus Teikhos and Nils.
“What was that?” Asked Nils, gesturing at Aura’s blade on Tyraal’s hip.
“Me proving that I’m more capable than anyone here cares to admit.” He replied in disgust.
“You aren’t trained for two weapons,” Returned Nils bitterly.
“News flash!” Shot Tyraal, eyes wide in sarcastic amazement. He threw his hands out slowly in mockery of an announcement. “I survived! Clearly I can do it if and WHEN I need to.”
Nils’ face hardened, and he shook his head.
“THAT,” He said. “Was incredibly stupid and arrogant of you.”
“Blazes Nils, just because I’m just an apprentice and you have two blades, you think I can’t do anything for myself? You met me TONIGHT! How the hell do you think you know what I can do?”
“BECAUSE I’VE WATCHED YOU AND AURA!” He roared. “AND I’VE SEEN YOU WORK VAAPAD! WHICH USES ONE BLADE!”
The two of them stared each other down, Nils towering over Tyraal as he stepped to the floor. They both turned towards Aura.
“Nice job.” Growled Nils begrudgingly.
“Thanks you.” Replied Tyraal, irritatedly. After a moment he added: “Likewise to you.”
“I know. Be smarter on Ullyr.” Tyraal looked at him sharply.
“The hell does that mean?” He snapped.
“It means if you’re going to get yourself, Aura, and those two idiots out of trouble," wound up Nils, "then you need to think through your actions much better.”
“And what’s Ullyr?”
“The planet they were assigned to. By the Force, did you even read the report?”
“YOUR MISSION.” Roared Nils.
“How do you know about that?" Tyraal asked. "Or what’s on it?”
“I know about it because I was supposed to go until I was reassigned elsewhere.”
Tyraal was silent for a space. The tension between them was still tangible.
“You have a ship?” Asked Nils.
“No.” Replied Tyraal, his bravado gone as it struck him just how involved Nils was.
“There’s an E-9 in bay 347-C. It’s just idling while Odan-Urr waits around. Take it for your mission. You need it.”
Tyraal was silent.
“Take the ship. Get in it. Fly to Ullyr. Find our two Odanites. Fly back here. Preferably with the E-9 in one piece. Do you understand what I’m saying?” Nils’ voice dripped with heavy sarcasm.
“Nils. Are you an Odanite?”
“Yes. I stand in House Hoth.”
A cough and groan from Aura snapped them both to attention. They rushed to her side.