Rise and Be Counted (Telos Knighting Fiction)

This fiction was originally posted by Muz Ashen Keibatsu in the Naga Sadow email chain. It totals 1233 words.

Grand Gallery
The Cathedral
Kar Alabrek, Tarthos

“You’re really not going to tell me, huh?” The Togruta cast a sidelong glance at the Aedile as he walked alongside her. She had answered the summons as quickly as she could, reporting to the Cathedral, meeting the man in the grand gallery.

He shook his head, turning and leading her through a set of secured doors. The hallway was broad, artifacts lining the walls, lights shining down on them gently from hidden tracks in the ceiling. Large bits of friezes reclaimed from crumbling ruins, statuary from forbidden temples, grave goods that survived the dead they were buried with all fell under their eyes as they moved deeper into the Cathedral. Xolarin smiled briefly, watching her eyes glide over the artifacts, seeing her interest wax and wane with each piece. before they came to the end of the concourse. Fast hands produced a keycard, the security locks releasing the door as they stepped through.

She winced in the brightness, the stark white of the hallway before them a dramatic difference to her eyes. Doors lined the hall, classrooms and lecture halls that would have been busier if it hadn’t been the middle of the night, if they hadn’t only just recovered Tarthos. Xolarin chuckled to himself. It would be a process, but one he was more than willing to see through. “Come on.”

They kept moving through a labyrinth of halls and doors, until the classrooms gave way to laboratories, wide glass windows showing the interiors and droids within. “They’ve been working the whole time we’ve been gone?”

Xolarin shook his head. “The whole project went into standby when we left Tarthos.” He cleared his throat, watching as a droid put a small icon into an imaging array. “We didn’t want the energy signature drawing the Collective deeper in.”

“It’s late.” Telos raised her eyebrow. “I’m surprised they still have work to do.”

“You’d be surprised.” Xolarin chuckled. “We brought a large amount of material back with us. Everything has to be researched, scanned, catalogued.”

“What are they looking for?” She paused a step, montrals picking up on the droid’s movement.

“Yes.” Xolarin smiled as yet another set of security doors slid open.

The spiral stairwell ahead of them bore deeply into the land below them, the bright lights of the facility seeming to dim as she looked down. “What’s down there?” Xolarin ignored the question, or maybe he hadn’t really heard it as he started down the steps. She sighed, following the Aedile, the clack of her boots on the stairs echoing with each movement.

Every flight or two, a heavy locked door stood, catalogue numbers and references embossed in the metal. Every time, she watched the Aedile as he reached a hand out, as if he was feeling everything as he moved past it. She felt…something, but she wasn’t exactly sure what. Storage for the artifacts that were too important to display? All of the unimportant bits that they turned up over a lifetime of artifact hunting? Items that they could not figure out how to operate yet? Or maybe it was just materials that the House could use in case of emergency. She had heard all of the hushed whispers and rumors about what lay beneath the famed Cathedral of Marka Ragnos from the other journeymen. It had been so long since they were on Tarthos, it seemed like they were stepping into history by just being here.

Flights later, he paused, turning to see the Huntress as she followed a few paces behind. The block walls had given way to stone a hundred feet ago, chemlights replaced by motion sensitive diodes. Xolarin half smiled at her as she stepped down onto the landing, then turned and walked through the wall.

Until it wasn’t.

Her hand sank into the stone, a cool feeling dipping across her hand as though it was reaching into fresh water. She drew her hand back suddenly, staring at it. Standing up straighter, she took a breath, then stepped through.

Inside was a rather large chamber - a temple of sorts, but not with the huge grandiose arches and open ceiling as with higher floors and on the surface. Considerably deep beneath the crust, necessity paired with secrecy to keep this ancient hall smaller.

But the lack of vast height did not take away from the beauty. The stone was the same, although perhaps a bit more finished or hewn in this area. But there were brilliant stone walls, shimmering sconces that danced across tapestries and paintings, carved busts and other marvels in between each.

High above on the shallow-arched ceiling was a series of murals, a story of legendary tales of the Ragnosians and the armies of darkness that fueled the true empire and ensured the survival of their ways. It capped off the entire homage to the great Sith Lord and his legacy.

Telos stepped forward, eyes stinging from the incense, as they adjusted to the torchlight. A raised dais stood before her, Xolarin stepping up to stand next to a stone altar, ancient runes carved into deep patterns that seemed to writhe under her eyes. She blinked it away, slow paces taking her toward the aedile.

Turning from his work, long hair trailing with the motion, the Lord of the Krath nodded once at her and straightened his back, raising himself to his full height. Black eyes glinted in the flickering of the torches as he raised an arm, palm toward the ceiling, beckoning the Togruta forward. Her bootfalls muffled by carpet the color of dusk, her eyes cast downward, taking stock of the fine filigree work, trying to calm her mind from the questions racing through her.

“Hunter Telos.” His voice echoed around the room, booming in her ears and in her head. “You have been brought here for judgement.”

Judgement? Her head spun, trying to find what she could have possibly done wrong as he stepped toward her, his palm flipping toward the floor, the invisible hand of the force weighing on her shoulders mightily. She staggered, dropping to one knee under the strain, eyes darting around the room for something…anything that she could use. The furious scream of the Krath’s blade shook her, brought her attention back to him.

“You have been judged…” Xolarin tilted his head, the light playing across the extremely short hair of his scalp. He let a smile crease his lips as he moved forward to stand next to the Grand Master, an exercise in opposites. “…and been found worthy.”

Muz brought the violet blade up, then swept it down, hovering the blade at her left shoulder, then the right. His blade precisely carved a pattern he had done too many times before, her neck feeling the warmth of the weapon before he pulled it back.

“Let this be the last blow you receive unanswered.” The words echoed in her ears and in her head, the gravel tones sinking in before she realized what was to come. The Force gelled in front of her, smashing into her and sending her back several paces on the carpet, dragging her knee, boot scraping and teeth rattled. She shook it off, the daze fading as she regained her composure, eyes wide as she steeled herself for another telekinetic attack.

“Rise, Telos.” Muz stepped forward as Xolarin reached out a hand to help the Togruta up. “Rise and be counted as a Knight.”