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Wind-Swept Beach -- Great Western Sea: Valentine's World

        This is a vast beach of glittering, golden sand stretching as far as the eye can see in both directions. To the south, a dazzling sapphire sea sparkles under the sun, driven to dramatic tides by the two huge, cratered moons that fill a quadrant of the clear sky, crashing and receding with familiar regularity. Along the waterline, a flock of long-legged shorebirds with bright blue plumage and saber-like beaks peck at the occasional arthropod that scuttles over the sand. Across the sky, the broad silhouette of a winged aiwha casts a momentary shadow before plunging into the sea to join the pod of cetaceans beneath the waves. In the distance, giant sea stacks form daunting vertical cliffs that rise intermittently like sentinels from the waters below. Looking north, the dunes continue for a couple of kilometers, giving way to a densely packed, emerald green forest of giant trees that obscure the horizon.

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Malideus

        A few fingers below the average height of a human male, Malideus still makes for an imposing figure, with his broad chest and workman's muscles. Carrying himself with a stalker's grace, Malideus appears lithe in spite of his pronounced musculature. At a glance, he leaves an impression of health and fitness, save for his eyes, which glisten red, likes tears of unshed blood.

        Every centimeter of Malideus is covered in leather, once black but now faded gray. Boots rise to his knees, secured with thick, primitive laces, tied and retied. A well worn coat with a broad collar adorns the upper half of his body, and articulate leather gloves cover his hands. A hood and mask cover his head and face, leaving none of his skin visible, save for a narrow band of flesh around his eyes.

Sarna

        A young human female of average height who appears to be in her teens. Her face is rounded with youth, yet the large hazel eyes flecked with green and gold that dominate her features are intelligent and confident. Her long, wavy dark hair is worn unbound, allowing it to fall to her waist. A white, cowled cloak covers her shoulders and falls to her polished brown hide boots. A pair of layered tunics in contrasting earthen brown tones are covered by a rust-hued tabard that's cinched at her narrow waist with a broad obi and a leather belt lined with pouches for storage. A holster for a blaster hangs at her hip, while the hilt of a lightsaber is clipped to her belt. On her legs she wears a pair of white, tight-fitting trousers tucked into her boots.

On'Tina

When not hidden behind her dark-tinted pilot's goggles, the first thing noticed on this feminine figure is likely her piercing sanguine eyes. A rich, expressive blood red iris floating in a field of snow white that contrasts against the smoky, charcoal grey of her skin. Dark reddish-black lips sit under a slightly wider-set nose dotted with a single piercing stud on one side. Deeper onyx markings decorate around her eyes, though whether they are natural variations to her skin tone, tattoos, or some applied cosmetic is difficult to exactly tell. White dots highlighting along the corner of her eyes and her cheeks creates a canvas of her visage akin to stars twinkling in the deep of space.

Her lekku when free from helmet or veil seem similiarly decorated with dark markings and binding ribbons that rotate to coordinate with her outfit, defaulting to black for casual day to day wear. On the taller side for her race, she has a scrappy look edging towards lean with the ramshackle appearance of a spacer who takes things as they go. She doesn't seem to easily sit still and constantly fidgets with one thing or another even when otherwise sitting and standing still.

Izara

        Tall and lanky with long limbs, the woman moves like a predator in calculated steps. A mass of black curls flow in spirals framing her carmel complexion. Her face is oval but long with a strong jaw, prominent chin, exquisite cheekbones, and a slightly high forehead. Her nose fits her face perfectly and her lips are full and plump. Large eyes of aquamarine take in every detail of her surroundings, with arched brows shaped perfectly. That being said, her natural beauty is somewhat challenged by her attitude and unrelenting gaze. This near-human is an Epicantrix but her connection to her culture was severed long ago.

        Clad all in black, her long reaching arms are bare, a loose fitting black tank top over a black bandeau is tucked into leather-belted black canvas pants that are well worn-in. A blaster holster is strapped to her right thigh and a large knife is displayed at her waist on the left side. Her feet are clad in worn black combat-style boots.

Kalden

         Kalden Vale is a Human male standing just slightly over 1.8 meters in height. He appears to be in his late 20s or early 30s. His build is light although apparently no stranger to the outdoors and physical activity. Strength is not lacking even if deceptively packaged on his frame. Brown hair feathers across the head yet it is trimmed along the sides and back to prevent it from becoming wild. One would hope that the hair has been fashioned this way and is not simply the result from spending too much time in the field and not taking enough showers. Hawkish light hazel eyes peer out into the world behind well defined ridgelines of a gaunt face. Few details escape their notice. Kalden's nose is on the thinner side, a sign that his ancestors hail from a warmer climate. Full, dark brown, bordering and black facial hair looks to have been unshaven for about a week.

         Kalden appears to be a scout or tracker by trade. He wears a suit of light scout armor that offers little in the way of protection but quite a bit in utility. The base of the armor is a thin, dark tan hide with camouflage patterns dyed into hide. Extremely thin plates line the torso, back, shoulders and major portions of the leg and arms. They are painted in the same camouflage patterns and have plenty of scrapes from use. The plates are only thick enough to protect from random cuts and the bites of small animals or perhaps even an angry Ewok with a club. Protection has been fully traded for mobility and stealth. What the armor lacks in protection it makes up for in utility. Survival gear lines the armor. Everything from grappling hooks to fire sticks line the various pockets and attachment points of the armor. The only visable weapons are a vibrosword sheathed on the back and an rim world manufactured pistol in a hip holster.


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        With the Valentine sun well above the Eastern horizon, its golden light shifting the ocean from velvety black of night waters to the deep blues of early morning tide, the man in black stands at the water's edge, his carved wooden can in front of him, his blood-filled eyes looking out across the waves. Motionless as a statue in his faded black leather, he meditates in the morning light as the brisk ocean breeze rolls over him.

        Behind him there is some activity amongst the ships parked high up on the sand. The work of shipping and commerce is never fully complete, and it is in the early hours of the day that much of the heavy lifting is accomplished. A pair of burly cargolifters haul crates on repulsor lifts, moving material from the belly of starcraft onto Tier-bound haulercraft. A foreman, an uncharacteristcally heavy-set Nahrahm with long black hair and a permanent scowl, watches over the work. None of these workers take notice or give a care to the strange man in black on the beach. He has stood there through the night, long enough to become a non-entity, a fixture in the background of the busy start to their day.


        At the north end of the line of ships parked on the beach, a large boxy freighter violates the sand with it's scored and dented hull. In large script its name is scrawled along one side: "Hot Stuff". None too subtle a name for the fence who owns it. It's large enough to hold a couple of smaller starfighters, a half dozen mechs, or several speeders and swoops.

        Outside the ship's lowered ramp are some smaller empty crates arranged to act as a table and chairs. A sunshade has been put up to shield the area from the onslaught of the rising daylight. Nearby, a pair of hulking men stand a ways away directing any uninvited traffic away from the tall woman's ship, just meters from where the black leather clad man is waiting. Respectable garage owner and trusted fence of Orum's Bastion, Izara Dawn stands at the ramp's base, a cup of caf in hand, watching the impromptu flight line's activity and the forest beyond.


        Another who has not slept this night makes her way to the huge beach serving as landing pad for Tier City, her footprints leaving marks in the sand alongside that of her little droid Vee-Four, who keeps close while rotating his cone-shaped head at all angles to keep a look out for danger. Sarna Valios Starker, the newcomer to this part of the universe, pauses on top of a ridge of sand dunes, feeling the morning sun on her back while the sea breeze whips at her hair and her long white cloak.

        Reaching out through the Force, her gaze is drawn to Malideus's location, the man in black an oddity against the backdrop of the blue-green sea. Vee-Four beeps a few times to get her attention, and she looks down as the little droid starts in the direction of the freighter Hot Stuff. Hesitating, the girl notices Izara, and then starts off after the droid, her shoulders and back straight and a solemn, wary expression on her face as she trudges through the sand. "Good morning," she greets the woman Izara, mentally noting the members of her crew. "I guess I found the spot."


On'Tina seems to have found a vantage point to watch and hear things from a distance but still listening, hunkered down behind one of the many trash incinerators set out to deal with the bustling crowds arriving for the festival from all manner of places. Using the crackling and buzzing from the clearly outdated equipment to cover up her movements, she sits with a blaster out on her leg her lekku twitching from time to time as the wind shifts.


        The True Source is with Malideus, keeping his flesh from being consumed by the disease fighting to destroy the Telgossian Selas. The True Source flows through the black clad man, washing away the emotions, uncertainty, and self-hatred, leaving only an empty vessel ready to be filled with what Malideus would describe as The Peace of the All-Mother. It's through the True Source that Malideus senses the young Sarna Valios Starker enter the beach. He does not see her in the usual sense. He feels her presence, like the warmth of the sunlight on his back, he senses the light of her luminosity, the essence of life emitted by all living things. It is that which connects everyone, the Over Soul, the shared vitality.

        Malideus lets go the connection and returns fully to himself. With the closing off from the True Source, the emotions held at bay come rushing in. Concern. Apprehension. Distrust. A hint of fear for the danger Sarna represents. An essence of love for the life and vitality that Malideus swore to protect. He turns from the water and stares across the sand. First to On'Tina, his glistening red eyes taking in her position. He frowns at her blaster, but it is a necessary evil. His gaze scans across to the Epicanthix and her crew near the "Hot Stuff." The tall, lanky spacer and her men were an unknown quantity in the coming confrontation. How would they change the stakes when Sarna and Malideus laid down their hands?

        Red eyes move to Sarna herself. That detestable little droid at her side. He knew her to be trouble from that companion alone. A memory floats through his mind of a hunted man, hoisted in the air, smelling of fear and the contents of his bladder, released out of fear. Malideus remembers Sarna's smile. Gritting his teeth behind his mask, Malideus steps forward, his leather-clad feet supernaturally light on the sand. He lifts his wolf-head cane in his left hand. No tracing his path or tapping out his memory game today.


        Izara regards the young woman as she approaches the "Hot Stuff" with a mix of relief and dread. She didn't like the way this was probably going to go. Malideus deal had altered in a direction that left a bad taste in the Epicantix woman's mouth. She scans the dunes and the detretrius below them fixing momentarily on On'Tina and grimaces. Looking down on Sarna and her droid she nods. "That you did," she intones neutrally and then looks over to the black clad man where he stands.


        Vee-four whistles fervently as his ocular sensors focus on Malideus's approach, and Sarna holds out a hand as if shushing the little droid. "It's all right, Vee," she murmurs. Izara's brief greeting gets a nod from the dark-haired girl, and she takes a step toward the makeshift meeting spot, folding her arms across her chest and pointing her chin at the strange black-clad man. The wind whips at her long hair and her cloak flutters, but she seems unaffected by the elements as she tilts her head and waits for him to make his move in silence.


On'Tina tilts her head to one side listening to the beeps and boops of the droid and seeming to track his movements with a careful precision. Then her sanguine gaze slides over the woman with him as she approaches the meeting spot. She seems to grow somewhat aware of others looking towards or near her spot and she hunkers down further, tugging down her goggles as the wind begins to shift and risks blowing sand in her direction. There's a restless energy that seems to brim from her, uneasy from a lack of movement.


        "Sarna Valios Starker," Malideus says, his voice little more than a rumbling growl. His sing-song Telgossian accent is at odds with the gravity he imparts in the girl's name. "I see you. And I have seen you. I know what you are capable of, and the only question that remains to me is how much you are aware of what you do. What damage you might do."

        Malideus lifts his cane slowly, turning it so the crude wolf's head seems to star at the young woman. Then he pulls back, putting the cane behind him, towards the water. "The True Source gave me a vision. I saw your weapon and its deadly light. As much as I might want to see if the life in the wood can withstand the power of your technological terror, as a sign of good faith, I will put down my weapon so that we can speak directly."

        Malideus releases the cane and it drops onto the sand. A strong breeze catches the wood and rolls it away. No tricks of supernatural forces. Just nature grasping and pulling, moving to disarm the Selas.

        Malideus's eyes flicker down at the droid, his brow furrowing. Then back up towards On'Tina. Trust or faith, he leans into the unknown. Perhaps the day would still play out differently than he feared.


        Izara lifts a brow as Malideus disarms himself, watching his cane escape behind him. Perhaps this will go well after all. talking is better than fighting, most times anyway. She sips her caf, draining the cup and passes it off to a crewman just inside her ship. She then steps onto the sand, perhaps feeling a little protective towards the young woman, and leans against a landing strut. Casually she lets her hand drift down to her hip where a long thumb quietly unsnaps the holster of her blaster. The day was just beginning but it could end very quickly depending on how this discussion goes.


        "Malideus of the Wood," Sarna acknowledges. There is a hint of surprise on her face at his words, but it is quickly gone as her stoic mask returns. She had, after all, been careful not to ignite her lightsaber with witnesses around since she had come to this world. The vision that had assaulted them in the Plaza had been powerful, indeed.. "This?" she asks, unclipping the Jedi's weapon from her belt and turning it over in her hands. "I'm willing to disarm, as you have. But what about your little helpers?" She purses her lips and follows his gaze first to On'Tina, then to Izara and the rest of her crew, knowing most of them are armed.

        With a slight furrowing of her brow, she speaks, her young voice clear and confident, "You are wondering if I know what I am. And the answer to that is yes. I have known my whole life what I am. I am a Defender of the Light, Protector of Peace and Justice. I am a Jedi Padawan." She still holds the device in her hands, unwilling yet to give it up.


On'Tina shifts in her spot and tilts her head and evidently realizing that apparently all related parties already recognize and spot her ... through one means or another ... she simply stands up and brushes the sand off herself. She breathes out and slides her blaster way at her side perhaps as a sign of getting in on the 'play nice' brigade. But the way she leans on her hip and keeps her hand nearby shows a practiced ease of retrieving it at a moment. There's alot of what is bantered back and forth between Sarna and Malideus that seems to not quite sit easily on her and she just breathes out.


        Malideus casts a glance at Izara and her crew, his eyes lingering longer on the black-horned Devaronian. He wasn't one of the ones playing dice when the Selas gave the demonstration, but at the time, Malideus thought the Devaronian most affected. Could it have been his imagination? If the young Jedi ignited her weapon, would he move to put down the danger, or would he flee? Malideus let's his eyes move on from the crewman. The measure of each of them would be revealed in a few minutes, Malideus was certain.

        When On'Tina stands, Malideus gives her the slightest of nods. He remembered telling her: it is useless to hide from Sarna. Like him, she would sense the presence of the living beings on the beach. From Izara to her crew, to the load lifters still working off in the distance. One or two have stopped in their work, their curious eyes directed towards the gathering near the "Hot Stuff." The Nahrahm foreman would probably deal with them soon.

        Malideus focuses his attention to the truly dangerous one. Sarna Valios Starker. The threat to the purity of the All-Mother. "I do not know what a Jedi is, but I know what it is to protect the True Source of all Souls. If you are true to your word, then perhaps we do not need to fight. Perhaps, when I have drawn my last breath and the All-Mother takes me into her embrace, you might stand yet to carry on my duty. This is the choice I wish to offer you."

        Malideus raises his right hand and slowly, carefully, pulls off the glove. The flesh underneath is darkened, stained from the leather that protected him. More than that, there is open sores, visibly weeping and closing in the sunlight. Sickness works its way across Malideus's flesh, a disease threatening to take the man's vitality. Yet the True Source visibly works to keep the pestulance at bay. Malideus takes a step forward and offers his hand. "Join me, Sarna Valios Starker. I will teach you to respect the True Source. I will cure you of your ignorance and together, we will destroy those that would corrupt the True Source of All Souls."


        The Devaronian moves down the freighter's ramp as if beckoned by something but Izara holds out her hand, palm down, signalling him to hold his position. Behind him the Lasat sits, examining a claw on his right foot in a casual way though he could spring into action suddenly if needed. That made four crewmen visible and who knew how many inside the "Hot Stuff" with her large cargo bay, crews quarters and such.

        Izara's lip curls at the sight of Malideus' skin - a mixture of disgust and sudden sympathy washing across her caramel complection as the sun moves slowly higher in the sky warming the day below.


        When it appears that Malideus's hired henchmen are disarmed, Sarna very slowly lifts her lightsaber in one hand. Though wary that On'Tina and the crew of the "Hot Stuff" could ambush her any second, she chooses to trust, and with a fluid and elegant gesture, she sends it floating seemingly on air to come to rest next to Malideus's cane in the sand. She shifts her weight from one booted foot to the other, sorting through his words. It's clear that their philosophies converge in some ways, but something in his words rings wrong to her. When that diseased hand is exposed and extended toward the young girl, she becomes aware in that moment of the constant struggle this being is in simply to stay alive. Empathy and shock war with each other and she visibly recoils.


        Vee-Four is still next to her, though he keeps an extra set of ocular sensors on the lookout. He bleats and whirs softly as if the sounds might console his master. Sarna swallows hard and composes herself, but she does not take that offered hand. "I do not need to be cured of my ignorance, Malideus. Though it appears you are in need of curing yourself. What corruption of the 'True Source' are you referring to? Are there Sith here that need to be eradicated?" In her heart, she knows he must mean the Dark Side of the Force. What else would corrupt the soul of one wielding the Force?


On'Tina shifts on her feet as she seems to grow more and more disquieted by the topic being discussed as she looks back and forth between the two Force users. There's a lot of terms and thoughts and ideas that are clearly a bit beyond her ... things the average person doesn't think about. And anyone touching on her mind probably can get a sense of that struggle.


        The Selas leaves his exposed, diseased hand extended for several seconds after Sarna refuses to take it. It is hope that allows him to remain open to her, inviting her to join him. Hope that after so long, he would not need to carry the burden alone. The sense of pity and revulsion coming from various sources feed the fire of doubt and sadness that burns away the hope. When at last there is none left, he withdraws his hand and begins the slow, painful process of pulling the leather glove back on over his fingers.

        "Sith. Jedi. Padawan. I do not know these words," Malideus says. "Perhaps if we spoke the same language, we would find the bridge that spans the void between us. But it is clear you do not understand."

        The whirring of the droid draws Malideus's attention. He stares daggers at the mechanical creature, then glances at On'Tina. If the diminutive automaton tried something, would the Twi'lek take the shot? Would she risk the wrath of this so called Jedi Padawan?

        And what of Izara and the crew of the "Hot Stuff?" What would they do if Sarna's wrath was ignited by the destruction of her mechanical pet? Perhaps that would be the catalyst that would bring about the fulfillment of his dark vision from the plaza of Tier.

        Malideus shakes his head. "You do not know what my people know. How all like us..." He trails off to point at Sarn'as heart, then tap his own breast bone. "Do you not understand where your power comes from? What creates it? All of us that are Cursed."

        There is too much to say. Too little time. The bloody, unshed tears making his eyes red and watery fill up and spill over, red streaking down his cheeks and pulling at the top of his mask. His brown irises are exposed again, pained and pleading. "I made a promise not to harm you during this meeting."


        To say that much of this goes over the heads of her crew would be an understatement. But Izara knew of these power users. Because of one of the Enclave members, her brother was locked in a prison ship somewhere likely never to leave. Putting her sibling away for petty crimes was just another job for that one. And what of these ones? The girl was noticed by the Enclave already. If she leaves here, would she join them? Did Izara really want to see her throw in with the diseased Malideus? These thoughts flash through Izara's unguarded mind as she weighs where she stands in this fight, if there would be a fight.

 

      "Plain words," the Selas repeats. He turns and watches On'Tina, listening carefully. "Yes. To speak plainly and understand. But I do not need to sit in order to say what needs to be said. It is a simple truth: All are born with a soul, given to us from the True Source. It is the True Source of All Souls. What we do feeds it. Teaches it. Makes it grow. All people are entrusted with their soul at birth, and the measure of our lives goes with us back to the All-Mother. Back to the True Source. But people like Sarna and me can touch it directly. We are the corruption, Sarna Valios Stalker. Like tossing refuse into a pure mountain lake just to watch the waves."

        All at once, Malideus feels weary, taxed from putting so many words together at once. When was the last time he tried so hard to convince a people of something they should have been taught before their True Name day?

        The Selas squares off with the Jedi, widening his feet into a defensive stance. "I have pledged my life to destroying those Cursed like me. I am a wolf, culling the flock. Such as those that go to The Enclave. It is time, Sarna Valios Starker. Your choice. Join me. Or die."


        Izara is taken aback when the merc steps out and speaks. Better someone other than Izara to get involved in this conversation, though. Even still, this wasn't their business. Izara and her crew were there to help Malideus have a conversation. Then she was here as well to assure Sarna's safety as she'd given her word. Then the ultimatum is issued. "What? Wait! That wasn't the deal!" Her crew begin inching back towards the ramp of the "Hot Stuff" as if on cue. Izara seeks out Sarna's attention to assure her but with the challenge issued she wasn't likely to get it. "I gave my word!"


        On'Tina's reasonable words garner a nod from the self-proclaimed Jedi. She lifts her hand in a small wave to the Twi'lek and then faces Malideus. She's all but ready to agree to a parlay and takes a step toward the makeshift table and chairs that were set up for this purpose. But she stops in her tracks when he chooses to explain himself all too plainly. The reality of his mission strikes her almost as a slap across the face, and Vee-Four's reaction is a series of angry bleats and whistles. This Telgossian is purging any and all Force Users, regardless of their guilt or innocence. Simply existing is enough of a sin to warrant execution.

        Anger flares in her belly. Her own people's history is well-known to her. The Jedi Purge that all but destroyed her Order. Izara's exclamation of protest is a relief to hear, and she catches the Epicanthix's gaze, reading her intention in an instant. "There's always a third way," she says, scowling at Malideus. "Your choices are no choices at all."


         Unaware of the tense situation on the beach, Kalden has made his way down the from the town after finally getting his first good night of rest in over a week. A few birds scatter into the skies from behind a sand dune moments before a Human appears cresting the dune, a canteen of water locked to his lips. Kalden pauses for a moment, scanning over the beach. The morning sun warms his face while obscuring his vison a little. A commotion carries through the air, drawing his attention. A gloved hand shields his eyes, allowing him to make out what appears to be a familar face. With nothing better to do so far this morning, Kalden starts down the small dune towards Malideus. Their brief interaction had caught the attention of the scout and he was curious to learn more about him and the company he keeps.


On'Tina squints at the arrival of Kalden and her hand floats over her blaster but doesn't pull it directly yet but she seems to just trace him with her eyes as he gets into the middle of the mix ... an unaccounted for element in an already tense situation. She seems to look over at Malideus and just upnods as if checking if the man's presence is expected.


        "The natural order offers little in the way of choice," Malideus says, the gravel in his voice churning with anger. "A seed is planted in the forest and it grows if it can reach the light. The treebug infests the wood of the tree, and they either starve or consume its flesh. The knifebeak picks into the bark to eat the treebugs. The razorclaw stalks the knifebeak. The lionodile catches the razorclaw. Pestilence, or predator, or prey. The True Source halts the danger of one life form with the claws and teeth of another. You are the knifebeak. I am the razorclaw."

        Izara's dismay is not lost on the Selas. His blood-filled eyes regard her and her crew momentarily, before turning back to the real threat in front of him. "I promised not to harm you during this meeting, Sarna Valios Starker. I mean to keep my promise. But rest assured I will do what is right."

        With the arrival of Kalden, the weight of pressure escalates. Malideus recognizes the man, remembering the wisdom and Rightness of his words. One of the few he'd met on Valentine's World that seemed to have any good sense at all. The meeting with Sarna had not come to blows yet, but Kalden's presence could tip the scales. Malideus catches the gesture from On'Tina and returns it. The moment of tention reached the knife's edge. Whatever happened next would be on the so-called Jedi's head.

        "You can still choose to do what is right. Join me, Sarna Valios Starker. Join me, and we can be wolves together, never alone again."


        An elongated hand goes to a button on the Epicanthix's belt and a secret signal is sent, warning her crew to ready for departure just in case. Izara finds herself surprised then to hear Malideus' words. The Devaronian and Lasat look on ready to act when their leader orders it. The two hulking humans have left their previous posts and are now at the base of the ramp. Izara calls out to the red-eyed man. If Malideus pursued Sarna after this, it would no longer be her problem. "Then you'll let her leave? Our deal is still in place?"


         Kalden catches On'Tina hovering a hand near her pistol, the slightest of smirks crossing his lips. "Your Lekku twitching my dear?" He did not know the alien and what part she played in this mess, however, he was not going let that gesture go unnoticed. "No quarrel exists between us.. less you make it so." From the side of his hips, a finger motions side to side towards her blaster pistol. The scout watches on with interest. He had known Malideus's presence at this town was not for pleasure. Purpose brought him here. His purpose, seems at odds with the one he calls Sarna. Rather than speak to Malideus directly, he instead speaks to the Twi'lek, "You wouldn't fancy yourself the Lioniodile would you?" A grin and the slight creak of leather as his own hands now rest near his own pistol, "That would intterupt the natural order of things would it not?"


        The arrival of the newcomer draws attention, not least that of the young girl Sarna, still in her teens by all appearance, facing off against the leather-clad stranger. Her eyes slide shut but she's aware of the increase in danger, the proximity of the man's hand on his blaster. She ignores whatever he may be saying to On'Tina; perhaps he could be used as a distraction.

        The offer the Selas gives her rings harshly in her ears and Sarna is shaken. Malideus, self-proclaimed predator of her own kind, wielder of the True Source. She weighs her options, wondering how her powers might stack up against the older man. Her eyes flick to the lightsaber resting in the sand next to the Selas's staff, the carved wolf's head turned in such a way that it seems to be regarding her, daring her to defy this killer. "I will not join you. But I will not die by your hand, either," she says stoically. "And I won't let you bring harm to anyone else, either."


On'Tina sputters out something in hotly spoken Ryl under her breath, her lekku indeed twitching in time with her words as she seems to have an intensely worded conversation mostly or seemingly with herself. She looks across to Kalden and holds her hands up slightly further away from her blaster, "I leave the 'natural order of things' to philosophers and priests ... " she starts in with her vowel heavy accent, "I'm neither. Just another lonely soul in the 'verse looking to make her way and you know friend ... mining work just doesn't appeal ... too hard on the nails." She seems far too amused at that last thought given the rough and tumble woman has likely never clearly worried about her manicure a day in her life and dresses in a way clearly designed to conceal or otherwise ignore her arguably natural appeal. She breathes in at the statement of Sarna and breathes out probably not expecting that to improve things.


        A loadlifter, too far away to hear the exchanges but close enough to see the tense exchange, drops their end of a cargo box. The heavy-set Nahrahm foreman erupts in profanity and curses, barely audible on the wind to the people near "The Hot Stuff."

        Then there is the exchange between On'Tina and Kalden, the strangers squaring off, their weapons close at hand and ready to be drawn. Different worlds, different perspectives, have aimed them at each other. More potential violence ready to explode on the beach.

        Malideus continues to square off with Sarna. "I had a vision, Sarna Valios Starker. Your eyes staring unblinking at the Valentine sky. My life blood spilling on the streets of Tier. And the other, standing over me with your weapon of light in her hand. Try to stop me, Jedi Padawan. Reach for your weapon. Let us see if my vision comes true."


        "Again you threaten her!" Izara calls out, just about fed up with the black clad man and his words of challenge. The deal is getting worse and worse as far as Izara can see and she wants her and her crew out of it now. To draw such attention so far from home gives her a horrible feeling as well. "I should've never got involved," the Epicanthix mutters to herself. Then she calls out again, "I don't think she wants to fight you. We can all just walk away from this...now!"

 

       The Twi'lek chose to stand down, something that seems to disappoint Kalden somewhat. "A life lacking purpose is not one worth living.", is the reply the scout gives to On'Tina. His own hands fall away from his pistol but not fully. He has seen that trick on more than one occasion and would not be fooled into lowering his guard fully. As much as the Twi'lek interested him, Kalden's attention immediately shifts to Malideus when the words "Jedi" escape his lips. The legends...

         For a brief moment Kalden's attention is drawn to Izara. Not nearly as interesting yet equally as important as the others here. His interest in Malideus was absolute now. The assignment to come to this planet to monitor the fair.... A job for a low level operative... A scrub.... Just like him. But to make a contact such as this. It would surely propel Kalden's name within the organization. Open the doors to who he is to become. Towards Izara he shouts in a neutral tone, "You are right to stay out of this." A pause followed by a smirk, "There is no purpose in in getting cut down like that foolish girl" The scout looks towards Sarna, attempting to gauge her response to the slight.


        They are both taunting her, and the Padawan reaches into the Force for inner calm, letting the anger rising in her drift away. Sarna lifts her chin and her eyes narrow. The temptation is keen, to call the lightsaber to her hand and strike down this creature who would just as soon see her dead. Perhaps she could even pull it off... perhaps...

        That vision haunts her, though. If true, they would both soon be dead. Sarna draws a deep breath and settles back on her heels for just a moment. Then there is a quick flick of her hand, a very small gesture which is followed by the little droid at her feet whizzing forward suddenly several meters. Swiftly, he deploys a hose and a thick most of fog rolls forward, forming an opaque barrier between the predator and his would-be prey.

        Taking advantage of the distraction, Sarna smiles to herself, bending her knees, and then she is shot through the air as if from a cannon, somersaulting in a tight ball until she lands with a thud on the landing ramp of the "Hot Stuff." There, the young Jedi reaches out her hand and calls her weapon home, gripping it tightly but not igniting it. She glares at Malideus as Vee-Four turns and wheels through the sand to join her at a breakneck pace. "Thanks for the offer, Malideus of the Wood. But I do not accept," she calls into the wind.


        The argument between the foreman and the cargo crew ends abruptly, the crewman picking up the crate and getting back to work. If a fight were to break out between On'Tina and Kalden, it still has not happened, and seems less likely as the wind blows across the beach.

        So, too, does the tension break between Malideus and Sarna. The foul droid does its dirty work, and in the time it takes for the Selas to realize what has happened, it's too late for him to do anything meaningful. Like the Jedi, he reaches a hand to his weapon, calling the Staff to his grip. He holds it in his left hand less like a walking implement and more like a sword, its carved and blunted tip directed towards "The Hot Stuff."

        Malideus looks towards Izara and her crew. In spite his words and provocations, he'd kept his word. No harm came to Sarna. Yet his end of the bargain, serving a mission as part of her crew, seemed increasingly inlikely. He didn't need a vision to know what sort of death sentence he would find if he tried to board "The Hot Stuff" now.

        Lowering his weapon, the Selas turns and begins moving away, towards "The Stark Contrast." He looks up towards Kalden, giving the wise man a slow nod. Then to On'Tina, the upnod, which seemed to be her custom.

        This was a beginning. Malideus knew in his heart he would cross paths with Sarna Valios Starker again. And he would be ready.


        The droid starts to move and on Izara's signal, the engines of the "Hot Stuff" rumble to life sending the layer of loose, dry sand flying. By the time Sarna lands on the ramp, Izara, blaster now in hand, shooting into the fog followed by the Devaronian and the Lasat are up the ramp and out of sight. The two hulking humans are right behind the Jedi girl as she scrambles inside as well, the ramp already raising. One of the men misses the ramp and tries to haul his large frame up onto it and is dangling the craft begins to lift up from the ground but before the ramp goes up his crewmates lift him into the bay. A loudspeaker crackles to life and blares out from the freighter. "Sorry! Deal's off!" And with that the boxy freighter shoots up into the atmosphere and away across the waters.


         If there were doubts in Kalden's mind that the force was real, Sarna's exiting stunt laid them to reset. So much so that a blaster being drawn and another being fired from the ramp does not have him drawing his own. The real danger had come to pass with neither side choosing to engage. "Don't think they are going to put that on the brochure..." The scout return's the nod to Malideus. In time he would speak with the man again. Until then he was headed back into town to get something to eat.


On'Tina leans aside and spits in the sand ... whether out of need or out of a statement about the goings on ... or someone or something involved in them. She sucks loudly in between her front teeth and watches the boxy freighter take its way into the sky. She squints and seems to study the vessel with a settled intensity and slides her blaster away and then makes her way over towards Malideus perhaps like it's as good an idea as any.

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