My Pillar, My Beacon

Chapter 63

He woke up, Sarah wrapped all around him, and he squinted uncertainly at his surroundings. Where was he? There was no doubt he was in a much nicer place than usual, they were swathed in silken sheets, in a perfect bed. The room was cool, silent, clean and starkly well appointed.

Korriban.

Dustil.

He stroked her hand, the one adorned with his ring, that she had resting across his stomach. Her face was buried between his shoulder blades, her knees tucked in behind his. He'd love to stay exactly where he was, exactly as he was... but he had work to do. He slid out of her arms, tucking the covers in where he had been and dressed. He brushed the powdery dust off of her robes, laid out her under clothes and toiletries and moved to the door. He'd been expecting to find someone waiting outside, someone who would point him in the right direction to find her a light breakfast, even just a pot of caf to get her going, but he hadn't been expecting to find Dustil.

Say something. Anything. But he couldn't. All he could do was just stand there and stare. Dustil looked so good. Older. Taller. Almost a man. All of the things he'd been hinting at the last time Carth had seen him had come to pass. You look like my father. And that brought a depth of mourning that Carth hadn't been expecting. He only wished he had more of a history with this young man, more to work on. But he'd been away so often, leaving Morgana to handle the things he couldn't...so busy with his duty, his calling. Telling himself he was needed on the front lines, that only he was good enough to do the job. And Telos had come so close to falling during the War, just one step farther out... Dustil had been a child. And the Mandos took children, adopted them. Carth had lived in terror of losing him, and that, along with his absences, had been why they'd only had one instead of the handful that he and Morgana had planned for, hoped for. It had always been...when it was over. And then it had been well and truly over.

"Well, well, well." Dustil drawled. "I couldn't believe it yesterday, but I see it's the truth. Ironic, I guess. Both of us captured by Sith. Hello, Father."

"Dustil." He'd dreamed of this, prayed for it. And now that it was actually here, he didn't have any words for it. "I thought you were dead."

"And I hoped you were."

So that was how this was going to go. "If that's so, why are you out here waiting?" He wasn't in the mood to play this game. He'd done his best. By now, Dustil should be getting old enough to understand that. He could be angry, he could be resentful. He was obviously going to strike out, but Carth wasn't going to rise to the bait. It would just make things worse.

"Is that really a true Sith Lord?"

"Yes, and she gets really cranky without her caf." Carth snapped. Dustil frowned, reached out, and pulled down on the neckline of Carth's shirt, exposing the uppermost reaches of the burn marks.

"I...see. Father..."

"Just show me where I can get her caf. And preferably breakfast as well." So Dustil wasn't up here to see him, but was attracted to Sarah. Or it was both, and was using Sarah as the stated reason for his attention. It didn't matter. He was here, close enough to reach out and touch. Alive, solid and real. They could still fix this.

"This way."

Dustil led the way down a back set of stairs, silent, but Carth could feel the weight of a thousand unasked questions hanging in the cool air. How had Carth, a veteran, a hero of the Republic, fallen into a Sith Lord's service? When? You wouldn't believe it even if I told you, kiddo. He'd been through it himself and hardly believed it.

The stair case ended in the back of a large kitchen, harried people scurrying around preparing food, but they were quick to point him at a table laden with offerings. He collected a large amount of food and a carafe of caf, mixing it as he knew she preferred it.

"You remember the way back?" Dustil demanded, and Carth merely nodded. Now was not the time. Here was not the place. He just had to have faith in Sarah and what she'd told him. They were going to bring Dustil out of here, one way or the other.

"I remember." Go do what you need to do, my son. Go get ready to impress a Sith Lord. It would just make it all that much easier for them all if he did. He carefully balanced the tray and retraced his steps, forcing himself to turn his back on Dustil...to keep playing his part.

Sarah was awake when he let himself back into the suite, sitting up in bed. "Morning, babe." He greeted, filling a cup with creamy caf and handing it to her.

"You feel...thoughtful." She stated, taking a long swallow and sighing in bliss, before she crawled out of bed, naked as the day she'd been born. Although it was usual, he still looked. He appreciated her acceptance of him, she'd never been awkward, never been modest...but she also didn't use it against him. She slept in the nude, he slept in the nude, it was their normal, and it was comfortable. He knew her eyes occasionally lingered on him, and his eyes occasionally lingered on her. She was beautiful and he'd have to be dead to not appreciate it when she shared with him.

"Spoke to Dustil." He sighed, gazing at the tray. He was starving, all he'd done since escaping the Leviathan was eat. And sleep. And eat. And eat. It was like he was a teenager again, shooting up towards his final height.

"You're still recovering." She stated, shifting half of the food onto another plate and handing it to him. "You lost quite a bit of weight. No crime in putting it back on. So, that is Dustil...confirmed?"

"Confirmed." That was most certainly Dustil. No doubts. He tore into the food, watching her as she took the other plate. She wasn't as voracious, but she ate with a focused intensity, picking and choosing carefully. "What?"

"I'll probably have to strut my stuff today. I don't want to be too weighed down for that. The Overseer will want to knock heads against me, one to make sure I'm what I say I am and two to see if he has a chance in hell of taking me down. I am what I say I am, and no, he has no chance. But we'll both still play the game. It'll clear any doubts and put him in his place. We'll call it training, but we both know better."

"You sure you're going to be okay if that happens?" She sounded so majestically confident, but he wasn't as certain. This man was the Overseer, the Master, of the Sith Academy on Korriban...

"Absolutely. It's a fine day to rub some noses into Korriban's dirt and get myself a shiny new apprentice." She grinned widely at him, but the smile didn't travel to her eyes. "Win, win, my dear. Win, win."

Yes, win win. He'd go along with almost anything that got Dustil out of here.

She dressed, did her hair and her makeup...glaring at herself in the mirror before she stuck her tongue out at the reflective surface. "You know." He began slowly and she met his eyes in her reflection and grinned at him.

"I know I look like a demented doll?"

"Yes, that. Exactly."

"And I look nothing like Revan." She stood, shaking out her skirts. "No iconic mask. No iconic robes. Right now, there are only a handful of people who could recognize me, and you're the only one on Korriban. And I'll have to do my best to scrub the memory of this clean out of your mind, when we're done here."

"Ha." He replied, carefully stacking the breakfast dishes on their tray. "You'd need Jedi mind tricks to get rid of this picture from my brain. I'll still be bringing it up years from now."

"Bastard."

"Yes, milord." He gave her a slight bow, picked up the tray and stepped back out into the hallway. It was empty this time, no anxious student waited for him. He'd been hoping for Dustil, because even his anger was a wonder to experience. Dustil had to be alive to be angry.

He left the dishes in the kitchen and took the steps two at a time back to the suite. Sarah stood just outside of the door, completely dressed and ready to go and he fell into step behind her when she started walking.

Although dawn was just breaking, visible through the recessed skylights of the main chamber, the expanse was filled with people...a large number of them close to Dustil's age, but more than a few adults had gathered. If Sarah was put off by her audience, she certainly didn't show it, striding gracefully down the stairs, her head held high.

"Good morning, Overseer." She stated calmly while Carth dared to look at the crowd. There he was. Dustil stood front and center, his dark gaze locked on Sarah. What the hell? That look was awfully close to the stares that Carth knew he gave her, eager, intent, like he'd been waiting for her for years...

"Good morning, Darth Augural. I trust your rooms were to your liking?"

"They were suitable." The dawn light painted her, her eyes gleamed, exposed from the depths of her hood. "I assume you want to play this morning?"

His expression closed slightly, he'd been expecting her to wait for him to bring it up, and she'd just stolen his thunder. "It would be advantageous for the students to see a Sith Lord in a little friendly saber play. To see a new style, how someone they're not familiar with fights..."

"Of course, let's get this over with."

"Milord?" He had the common sense to be a little less than thrilled about the idea of a Sith Lord 'getting it over with' with him.

"I understand what you want, Overseer." Carth had seen her fight enough times, felt her so well, that he noted the moment she palmed the offhanded lightsaber into the hand held behind her back. "And while it is interfering with my pilgrimage, the very reason I have come to Korriban, I will indulge you. For now. And I will look at your students, and if any of them are right for me, I will take a new apprentice. And then you will leave me alone."

"Yes, milord. Of course, milord. Thank you."

He moved away from her, into the open area of the main chamber, surrounded by his students. That was the moment she palmed her main hand lightsaber, her hand obscured in the panels of her robes. She waited for him to make the center of the chamber before she began to stalk towards him. The chamber was hushed, a hundred pairs of greedy eyes following her progress.

Carth had seen her fight. Carth had seen her fight for real, when her life, his life, the lives of those she cared for, hung in the balance. Then, every move was concise, rationed, dedicated to the cause of killing her enemies before they killed her. It could almost be a disappointment to watch, brutal in its short intensity.

She announced her approach by igniting the off hand, still held behind her back... it sprang into a lurid crimson glow, playing off of the sheen of her leather robes. She followed it a moment later with her main hand, its colors bleeding into the dawn light, and then she attacked in a wild flurry of motion. It was obvious that her speed and determination had put the Overseer off balance immediately, and she kept him there, feinting, whirling, driving him along. It was a glory to watch her dominate, to watch her shine, and she did it with a flourish.

And beyond, Dustil just stared, his gaze level and measuring, while his companions watched with open mouths and wide eyes. It was a look that Carth was unfamiliar with on his child's face, but he'd seen it on the faces of others, usually men stepping off of his ship, resigned to their deaths. What was he missing? What didn't he see? He didn't sense any real concern from Sarah, she was merrily showing off for all the Academy to see, and she felt fine. Better than fine, gloriously content...just as he felt when he was finally allowed to use his piloting gifts to their utmost. She was beautiful, amazing, and she knew it. And she'd done exactly what she was intending to do, she'd forced the Overseer into an almost completely defensive fight, he was struggling to hold her off, grimly focused, outclassed and doing his best to not let it show.

She vaulted backwards, landing with an exorbitant grace well out of his striking range, bowing slightly to end the fight before she turned her head to stare at Dustil. "Thank you for the morning dance, Overseer. And I'll take that one right there."

Carth expected...something. Something more. The other students seemed shocked, murmuring and uncertain, but the Overseer did not seem at all surprised by her sudden choice, or by the blunt way she expressed it.

"Of course, milord. He is yours."


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