My Pillar, My Beacon

Chapter 66

Dad. That was a word that Carth had been certain he'd never be called again in his life. Only recently had he considered the possibility of having another child...but to hear that word fall from Dustil's lips, to hold him again...

And to watch Dustil fight alongside Sarah was beyond amazing. His family. His beloved and his son, both force adepts. He'd admired Bastila and Sarah as they fought together as one, but now he understood that years of training together had given them that seamless fit. And now he watched his son learn the same dance beside her. He knew he should be worried, concerned...he was watching a Sith Lord, Revan herself, training his son. His son, clad in a Sith uniform, wielding a crimson lightsaber under her guidance.

But it didn't matter. He'd rarely been more content than he was then, watching over their backs. Sarah...Revan...had given him back what he thought he'd never have again. He'd made the mistake of putting his career, his duty, ahead of his family before and he'd never do it again.

"What's a tarentatek?" He finally asked. There had been honest concern in her voice when she'd spoken to Dustil about it. Sarah, who'd faced down a multitude of terrifying things during this journey with a broad, eager grin. He'd rarely seen her express doubt in her own abilities. But then, she'd always had Bastila there to back her up, almost every step of the way until now.

Sarah paused, then waved at Dustil. "A tarentatek..." He began with a grimace, "Is most probably a strain of rancor changed by exposure to Sith Alchemy and growing in a strongly dark sided environment. They are assumed to have been created to hunt Jedi. They feed on the blood of force adept individuals."

"Oh." And since he was facing two force adepts that he cared about more than anything else in existence, those were hardly words that could make him comfortable. This was the first time he'd been along with Sarah to find one of the fragments, she'd been through a lot, while he'd been left minding the ship and Mission. She'd handled them all before, and had managed Manaan alone. She'd be okay. They'd all be okay. He had to hold on to that thought. Just one step at a time, they'd come so far already.

"We've got this. Just lay down fire, they won't go for you first. I'll make sure they head for me."

They. Not it. Carth sighed, staring down the hallway beyond his son. "How many?" He finally got the nerve up to ask.

"I sense two, I think. They're naturally force resistant, but there are two places I can't sense. And those move."

"How much good are blasters going to be against alchemically enhanced rancor designed to hunt Jedi?" Now, there was a question he'd never thought he'd be asking.

"Amazingly good. They're force resistant. Not blaster resistant. We'll keep them moving, you shoot them."

"Sounds like a plan." He'd prefer more of a plan, but really...what else could they do with what they had? He'd become more used to ship mounted guns, but that wasn't an option. Even if he had the ship and those ship mounted guns, this tomb was protected deeply in the canyon, and those things were too close to the fragment for that to work. The only answer was to go into that hallway and on into that room, to place his faith in Sarah, in Dustil, and in himself.

"Let's go." He sighed, steeling his nerves and falling into step behind Sarah as she strode confidently forward, deeper into the tomb. It was lighter than he'd been expecting, his worst fears were to be dumped into total darkness, but the way was lit by wan, flickering lights recessed into the ceiling. It was only minimally better than nothing, it created shadows that moved and fluttered, grew and faded. And an opening to the right...a larger expanse...the sound of something large moving within. He heard shifting, snorting...and while Sarah might not be able to sense them, his low light/heat sensing glasses showed him beyond a shadow of a doubt that there were two large, moving creatures in the chamber beyond. "There are two of them, yes." He confirmed, and she nodded.

"How big?" She asked, fading back into the space behind him.

Big. Big enough. But not nearly as big as he'd been afraid of. "About the same size as the rancor on Taris." And that had been a young one.

"Good. Good." She breathed. "Then yes, Dustil and I will keep them moving. They're not very fast. We'll just whittle them down, hit by hit."

She galvanized into motion, falling back into that dance he loved so much. And it was her serious, no wasted movements dance, sterile, practiced, second nature. She launched herself into the room, well beyond the taretatek before they could pin her up by the doorway. They turned to track her, giving Dustil his opening to charge in behind her. Carth made the doorway then, moving much more slowly than Sarah and Dustil had, and got his first good look at what they faced. Dustil was determinedly striking at the hindquarters of the beast closest to Sarah, and every time it would try to spin on him, she'd press her attack on its front. The other one was trying to get through its companion to get at either one of them, but they kept it moving, denying the attack.

Carth remained at the doorway, he was simply not fast enough, nimble enough, to become embroiled in that, and those things...spiked, armored rancor...things...couldn't follow him into the hallway if he was forced to fall back. He opened fire on the one that they hadn't engaged, working to pull it convince it to charge him. It obliged quite nicely, but couldn't even come close enough to gather enough of a head of steam to hit the wall hard enough to put him in any sort of danger when he dropped back into the hallway, shooting the whole time. It did have a pretty long reach with those claws, something it proved by reaching into the hallway for him, one glowing blue eye locked on him as it leaned against the way to get as close as possible. He responded by shooting over the claws, over the humped shoulder, concentrating fire on that eye area. It roared, ducking back into the room and Carth cautiously moved up again, now that he had the measure of how far it could reach.

It was lumbering away, trying to refocus back on the closest target it had a chance of reaching, and Carth growled a harsh negative under his breath. No, not Dustil. He knew by the way his son's head tilted that the young man was aware it was closing in again, but Carth had been quite happy when it had been stuck in the doorway, impotently clawing the air trying vainly to reach him. He grouped a flurry of snap shots into its ass, tracking them up its back. It didn't really have a neck to speak of It was like trying to down a Mandalorian Basilisk war-droid with these, the side blasters of a naval officer. It created a lot of noise and bright lights, but was pretty damned useless.

Sarah gracefully flipped over its head, landing between it and Carth's treasured doorway, evading every single shot he'd fired before he realized she was on her way in. It turned, attracted by her passage, and charged the door again. Its back was pretty impervious, but its front was had a face, eyes, and a fairly large and fleshy looking patch behind its face tusks.

Dustil attacked it from the side as Sarah rolled in the opposite way, and it turned its head, giving Carth a shot even a blind man couldn't miss...that large, blood infused patch of naked skin, just scant meters away. He grouped another flurry of shots into it and an aerosol puff of blood formed in the air. It screamed, throwing its head to the other side to cover the wound against its side...narrowly missing Sarah as she hopped backwards.

No, no, no. Throwing its head to the side had opened up the same patch on the other side, and Carth repeated the shot grouping into it. This time there was a gush of blood and the creature frenzied, sending both force users scrambling away from it...Sarah pelting down the wall towards the farthest corner, and Dustil barreling into Carth as they both retreated into the safety of the hallway.

Sarah. Carth pushed his way out from behind Dustil, rushing for the doorway again. She was perfectly safe, she'd taken a perch on top of the edge of the cornice that edged the ceiling of the room. She was barely small enough to fit, but she was out of reach of the two enraged and injured terentatek. And she seemed perfectly willing to wait, wait for them to bleed, weaken...die. Carth was fairly certain that he'd killed the one, and they'd had a lot of time beating on the other... they'd hamstrung it at some point, it was limping, dragging a leg, panting.

He was tempted to shoot at it, but uncertain if he should. The last thing they needed was one of these dead in the doorway...that would pin Sarah down on the fragment side...and the pair of them on the other side. Getting her out would be a long and bloody endeavor, cutting a couple of tons of creature apart with lightsabers and moving it chunk by chunk. It was nothing he wanted to spend his time doing. It made more sense to wait for one or both of them to die.

And it didn't take long at all before one, and then the other, collapsed into motionless heaps on the floor. Sarah hopped down, cautiously approached them, lightsaber held at the ready. The first remained still when she touched the rosy blade to its head, and then, through its skull. The second only twitched when she repeated the process.

"Not much farther." She breathed, "I can feel it."

"The map doesn't do anything. It hasn't since Revan left here, master." Dustil sounded concerned, but then, they'd just hacked their way through two monsters created simply to destroy them. The idea of that being all for nothing was disturbing, especially if it left them with a temperamental Sith Lord denied her prize.

"I will see it anyway." She stated, moving on into the final chamber. It was much less grand than Carth had been expecting, cluttered with fallen stones and detritus. The footings for a sarcophagus sized stonework had been laid, but there was none. There was nothing but a folded tripod in the corner, so insignificant, so easily overlooked, but Sarah was headed straight for it.

She got about three meters away from it when he heard a distinct click from it. It whirred to life, the vibration filling the small chamber, before it opened, the sphere in the base rising to hover in the air. The sphere glowed brightly yellow, and then the light expanded to encompass the full span of the tripod's extended arms. It darkened to teal, and solidified into a perfectly clear star map. Sarah looked content, pleased, unsurprised. Dustil, however, had a measuring stare as he stared at the tableau...his brows drawn down, a line between them.

"The map opens for Revan and Revan alone." He stated and she glanced back at him.

"Don't be silly. What would be the point of creating a series of map segments, thousands of years ago, if only one Sith Lord could ever use them? Unless you're suggesting that this race had some sort of force vision that told them to go out and create a trail of bread crumbs to lead only Revan along? Revan was good. Maybe even great. But hardly unique. We stand in a canyon surrounded by the remains of great Sith Lords, after all. We are born. We learn. We rise. And we all fall." She held her hand out to Carth and he passed her the datapad, watching her copy the information from the map onto it.

"Is this the last one? Do we have the end coordinates?" It would just be their luck if that wasn't so. It wasn't as if Revan and Malak had been on reporting terms with the Order when they'd taken this trek the last time... and this time they'd been trusting the words of the Enclave's masters.

"" Her brows, or where her brows should be under all of that pale makeup, rose. She passed it to him and he studied it in shock. No wonder they'd never found it on their own. It was deep in the Unknown Regions, far within the trackless abyss of the galactic west. Without this map, they had no chance of getting there and back. "Let's go." They had what they'd come for. The faster they got off of Korriban, the better. The sooner they were allowed to be themselves again, the better. The longer that Sarah...Revan...was on Korriban, the more risk he ran in losing her. And if he lost her here, in that way, she'd take Dustil with her.

"He's coming." She stated suddenly, in that vague tone he knew all too well. Who was he? Malak? Had this all just been a trap? Had they been recognized?

"Malak?" He demanded, and wished immediately he could take it back when Dustil's expression clouded suspiciously, his son's dark eyes locked on his face.

She snorted in answer. "No. Uthar. He waits for us in the room with the tarentatek. And he's not alone."

Well, that was better than his first fear. The last time they'd encountered Malak, they had lost Bastila. They couldn't afford to lose anyone else. He couldn't afford to lose anyone else. "You can take him." He'd seen her grind that point in during their sparring match earlier. Had she been injured during the fight with the tarentatek? He hadn't asked in front of Dustil, it was an impertinent question given his 'station'. Was she exhausted? She didn't seem to be either one, she didn't feel it or look it.

"Of course I can take him." She rolled her eyes at him and he had to smile at her. So much confidence, so much utter assurance in her own abilities, it was a marvel to watch. She then gave Dustil a long stare and he simply stared back at her, refusing to blink, look away or back down.

"Don't ask." Dustil finally stated and she nodded, taking a deep breath and marching back the way they'd come from...towards the room with the dead tarentatek and the not so dead Academy overseer. What had Dustil meant by that statement? Was he refusing to back her up against someone who had been responsible for him for years? She was someone he'd just met, she'd claimed him, and he wasn't exactly brimming with joy over his very recent reunion with his father. Don't make me choose. I can't do it. He couldn't imagine a horror worse than Sarah squaring off against Dustil. No. It was chilly in the tomb, but Carth was washed in a sudden wash of cold sweat. If she sensed his mood, she gave no sign, moving right past him. And she gave no sign that she found Dustil falling into step behind her to be threatening. But then, could he be a threat to her? He'd been here for only four years, Sarah had decades of experience and training. The force loved her, kept her close and acted on her relentlessly... Dustil could be no match for that. Surely he had to understand that to go against her now would be suicide.

"Overseer Uthar." Her voice dropped back into Revan mode, and Carth pulled his blasters again. That tone promised blood and violence, always. "What a coincidence, finding you here."

"Darth...Augural. Interesting choice of tombs to go into. There should be little to nothing here to attract a Sith Lord such as yourself. There's so much more in, say, the tomb of Tulak Hord. Or Marka Ragnos. Yet you passed them by with barely a look. The only thing of note here is the map...Revan's map. Hardly something that you should be interested in, unless of course, you did not tell me truth as to who, what, you are."

Please, no children. Carth could handle killing adults over Sarah, he'd done it before and he'd do it again. But to kill children, youths, he didn't know if he could... But there would be no need to. Both of the people standing behind Uthar were quite adult, probably cadre, trainers here at the Academy. And both had that look about them that he understood meant that they had fallen to the dark side, ashen complexions, pale eyes, gaunt features. Colorless people in colorless uniforms.

"I am not a student. I do not answer to you. If you doubt who...what... I am, we can repeat our last fight, only this time I will take you to task for your insolence."

The Jedi bought a task force to take Revan down. She killed them all but Bastila...and was only brought down then by Malak's flagship firing on her bridge. Uthar and his backup were outclassed, if not outnumbered.

"I don't believe there is a Darth Augural. I think you're a Jedi spy. A Jedi spy who knows way, way too much. Malak will be pleased..."

Carth wasn't certain what had passed between Sarah and Dustil, but they both moved as one. It was a repeat of Sarah's tactics on the Leviathan's bridge, she yanked Uthar up into the air with a sharp motion of her hand, leaving him spinning impotently there while she attacked his male companion. As threatened, this was not a show fight, not a sparring match. Sarah was in it for the kill and yes, she certainly outclassed her opponents...cutting down both of Uthar's people in one calculated spinning swath of destruction before she turned back to him. He fell to the floor, coughing, his eyes flicking between her and Dustil.

"We can take her, boy. Malak will be pleased with both of us... It will bring you to the attention of the Dark Lord himself."

Don't try it, Dustil. Don't. I love you. I love her. We can just leave, work this all out when we have the chance to. You don't belong here.

Dustil smiled, and that smile was a close twin to the smile that Sarah got when she was going to kill someone she was certain deserved that death. It was rage, revenge, and a promise. "Where is Selene?" He ground out the syllables. "What did you do to her? You killed her, I know you son of a bitch!"

Carth froze, trying to make sense of it all. He'd suffered loss, still dealt with the pain of it everyday, and he recognized it in his own son's words. Anguish...Dustil was young to know that, but he did. It reverberated in that demand.

"She was the only person I had...and you took her. Just admit it. Tell me the truth." Dustil continued, and Sarah backed away from Uthar, returning to a guard position. Not my kill now. Yours.

Uthar looked between the silent Sarah, her face painted by the glow of her lightsaber, and Dustil, a study in barely contained rage and outrage. "She was holding you back." He finally said. "She made you weak. Distracted. She gave you doubts. I did you a favor. You should be thanking me."

And Sarah took another step backwards, distancing herself just a little bit more from the conflict. "And you." Uthar spun on her, "You know I speak the truth. If you are truly a Sith Lord, understand."

Sarah laughed softly... an odd mix of mockery and the understanding that the man pleaded for. "I understand." She admitted. "And understand that I will let him have you for it. If you are truly understand that as well."

His face froze, whatever hope he'd had fleeing. "I see now that you truly are Sith." He breathed. "I was wrong to doubt you. Well, get it over with then, boy. Your master doesn't have all day."

Dustil's eyes found Carth's, and he hesitated for just a heartbeat, waiting for his father to say, do something. But Carth did not utter a sound, he'd been in this same position, lightsaber in hand, facing the person who had killed the woman he'd loved. There had been a lot more history, good and bad, between him and Karath, but it didn't change the facts. He'd taken his revenge, and Dustil would take his own. This man was dead anyway, either Dustil killed him, or Sarah. The end result was the same. This was a man who killed teenagers and styled it 'training'. He deserved what he received, after all, he'd been trying to bring this out in Dustil.

Dustil took a deep breath, his brows lowering, and then he swept out in a decisive strike, the scarlet lightsaber singing through the air as he cut. Uthar fell to the floor at his feet, silent, dead.

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