Recordings from the Holocron of Valerie Soung – Sparring

   Here we have another somewhat edited bit from Kira’s player – more on how it goes when you’re an involuntary Sith apprentice.

   Valerie Soung, Trayus Academy, Malachor V

   I woke the next morning feeling better. My shoulder and arm were stiff from the wounds and bacta, but at least I still had all my limbs. Faer was looking towards another week before his legs were usable again. Reattaching limbs was a tricky process that never seemed to go smoothly.

   Getting cleaned and dressed was a chore as lifting my right arm sent a shot of pain running through my body. Once I finished I went out into the halls towards the kitchen. I found Mother there reading some list Thelos had given her.

(Mother) How is the shoulder?

(Valerie) It’s fine. A few days and it too should fully heal. The fresh bacta has integrated well enough.

(Mother) So Jurin was a changeling?

(Valerie) Yep, no one had any clue this whole time. I’m surprised no one had caught on to this fact.

(Mother) I’m more concerned about who sent him. Force sensitive changelings are not common, even with an entire galaxy. Someone lost a very valuable pawn last night.

(Valerie) Isn’t that being a bit paranoid? I thought it obvious he believed killing Kira and showing up me would make Father apprentice him?

(Mother) Perhaps you are right, but I prefer to assume the worst scenarios.

   I left Mother to her conspiracy theories. Father says he finds the habit endearing, but I felt enough was enough after the fourth book of that nonsense. Jurin had said something about not being interested in the apprenticeship any longer – but from that alone, he had been interested until something happened to change his mind.

   Thelos always made sure the staff had fruits and other snacks available at all times for grazing. I grabbed a few for breakfast before heading out into the plaza. Father was out here discussing something with the technicians. He stopped and came over to me when he saw me.

(Father) Are you alright?

(Valerie) I’m fine. I was careless is all.

(Father) I know you really don’t like hearing this, but you should carry your lightsaber with you more often. You don’t have to use it, but for incidents like last night…

(Valerie) I don’t want to hear about it.

(Father) Would be a real shame if Keldav ended up a better swordsman than you because of something so simple.

(Valerie) WHAT?

(Father) He has his own now, and it resonates with him quite well. The color is a bit odd, but I’ve learned to look past that sort of thing. He’ll be starting practice later today once he wakes up. I had been hoping for Faer to spar with him, but that won’t be practical for a while.

(Valerie) Your wanting me to try to spar with him again?

(Father) Yes, and you won’t have any choice in the matter. Last night was an embarrassment for you and for me. Faer is no longer my apprentice so his failure is his alone, but yours is another matter. I am beginning to wonder if we’ve neglected that part of your training so much that you don’t even know how to use one properly.

(Valerie) I refuse to spar with him and I know how to use one competently.

(Father) Valerie, grow up. I’ve catered to your pride long enough, it’s time to prove you can stand on your own.

   I stomped off and climbed aboard my speeder bike. Father was following me saying something or other, but I didn’t listen. The repulsor started with a roar and I took off out into the bay. Something thunked in one of the bags as I hit the water, but I ignored it.

   I can’t believe the nerve. Embarrassment? I was the top student at the Academy and had even been sent on a solo mission once already. At least I managed to injure Jurin and destroy his lightsaber with my bare hands, unlike Faer.

   To top it all off I was rescued by Kira of all people.

   I was in a foul mood and indulging myself by sinking into the Dark Side was not going to prove myself to Father. So I went further out to sea in an attempt to blow off steam.

   Driving out at sea can be soothing. Today the air and mist was cool as a storm was blowing in towards Trayus. The seas hadn’t gotten rough yet, nor had the rains started. It would probably be another few hours before things got ugly. I was hoping one of the behemoths beneath the waves might get delusions of grandeur and make a try at eating me. I needed the release, but nothing volunteered.

   Eventually I reached the sandbars that protected the coastline and brought my bike to a halt. On the largest sandbar I did see the remains of an encampment left behind by the local Gholh. An ugly crustacean species that had yet to master the most rudimentary tools. I had seen them a few times, but they always fled when they noticed me. Looked like this camp had been abandoned for over a week now judging by the signs. No trace of it would remain when the storm came through later today.

   Curiosity overwhelmed my anger. I don’t know why I decided to rummage through the remains of the camp. Maybe it was the urge to find something to show it was once here, or maybe I just wanted to see what they left behind. I doubt they would have treasures like what the Waklim considered trash, but stranger things have happened. A glint among the remains did catch my eye though. A bit of digging brought up a glass knife, probably crudely sharpened with a stone.

   Where did the Gholh learn to make glass? Maybe they had traded with the servants on this world. Or it could have been volcanic I suppose, although red was an odd color for that. Oh well, that was a mystery for someone who cared for that sort of thing. As I was putting the knife in one of the bags on the bike, I noticed something else inside the bag.

   My lightsaber.

   Damn it, Father must have thrown it into the bag when he saw me take off. I am not an embarrassment to the family. If I have to beat Kira senseless to prove that, I will.

   The ride back to the residence was rougher than the ride out. I set the repulsor to a higher setting to go above the increasing waves. Land came soon enough as I increased the throttle further. It had started to rain as I entered the plaza and parked the bike. Thelos was waiting for me already.

(Thelos) Ah, my Lady, your father is expecting you in the practice room. He has requested you bring your lightsaber when you come.

(Valerie) Fine, tell him I am on my way.

   I grabbed the lightsaber and the knife and headed inside. The practice room was never very elaborate. Thirty meters on a side and diagrams depicting various sparring positions were inscribed on the floor. Father and Kira were already in there waiting on me.

(Father) Glad you could finally join us. Now would you replace the powercell in your lightsaber and assume the basic position?

   The training power cells had current limiters on them to prevent any real cutting. You could still get a mild burn or shock, but you couldn’t lose something vital using them.

   Except your pride.

   I assumed the basic stance position and Kira did the same opposite me. In a brightly lit room it was clear that his blade was transparent as far as my eyes were concerned. The violet corona prevented that from becoming a liability for me though, as it allowed me to track it visually. Kira was wearing gloves and long sleeves for this, smart.

   He didn’t even get a chance to block the first time as I rushed forward and slammed into him. I could hear Father sighing in the background, but I didn’t care. We resumed stances again and I made to repeat myself. This time he managed to block the blade but still failed to block the force of my blow as he landed on his back again.

(Kira) Oh this is just great, I can see this is going to be a great lesson in how to stand up repeatedly.

(Valerie) If you don’t like getting knocked to the ground, then I suggest you do something about it.

   Third attack had him trying to dodge to the side only to meet my foot as it came around in a kick. Fourth time he actually charged as I did and nearly managed to cancel out the force of my blow, at least until I pushed him over my leg and into the ground again.

   I had to admit, he was learning and trying different things to try and stop me. He never tried the same tactic twice. Too bad his skill with the Force was such a handicap that all the options he tried were hopelessly ineffective. Well, there was no way he’d learn if he didn’t have an obstacle to overcome.

   Practice continued on for a few hours with the occasional break. I wasn’t even trying to knock him down at times. His lip was busted and bleeding, rug burns on his arms and legs, and his left wrist was swollen after I bent it back for him a little too far. Plus there were numerous marks on his skin and shirt where the lightsaber had connected. My shoulder was getting sore from the repeated heavy use as well.

(Father) Valerie, that’s enough. He isn’t going to learn very fast if he ends up in medical after every practice. Keldav, you may leave.

   I watched Kira leave before speaking up.

(Valerie) He needs to learn he can be overpowered readily. If he doesn’t learn that, then he won’t have nearly the drive to improve.

(Father) I believe he is well aware of that now. But how is he supposed to become a good sparring partner for you if you keep beating him senseless?

(Valerie) I am not beating him senseless. He is actually improving. Or were you too worried about him to notice?

(Father) We begin again in the morning. Remember restraint, you are not the best in this house yet.

   Father walked off and left me in the practice room to myself with that. I asked Thelos to have my dinner brought to me there and resumed my own personal practices.

   The routines and styles have been more or less been static for millennia. Sure, some would have you believe there are numerous styles of how to wield a lightsaber, but those merely are collections of related techniques from what I have seen. Moving the blade to where you needed it when you needed it was the primary skill one needed to learn.

   Things changed a bit when you used two lightsabers or one of those double monstrosities. Two at once wasn’t bad if you were willing to trade power for speed, but the double-ended lightsaber made a mockery of tactical fighting. It was showy and looked good in the holos, but actually using it was asking for accidently chopping off your own leg or having your opponent attack the hilt and your hands. There were so many maneuvers you couldn’t use…

   If it wasn’t for the fact that it wasn’t their style, and was impossibly farsighted (and far too subtle) for them, I’d think that the appearances of the things in the holos were a long-range Jedi trip to lure would-be Sith into crippling their own fighting abilities. How many Sith had been indirectly taken down by holodirectors and scriptwriters giving them bad examples and advice?

   I’ve been meaning to quietly make a second lightsaber for those rare occasions I would need a spare or a second one. Plus there is always the hope that the color might come out differently, although I would never voice that aloud. Maybe next week when the pressure to perform these practices relaxes a bit.

   Dinner arrived and I ate there on the floor quietly. A thought occurred to me as I sat there looking at my tray.

(Valerie) Thelos?

   One of the holo-orbs floated out of it’s hiding place and projected the avatar image.

(Thelos) Yes my Lady?

   I pulled out the glass knife I had found earlier today. Luckily the practice hadn’t broken it like I feared it might.

(Valerie) Could you tell me about this? I found it out on the sandbar today.

(Thelos) That would be a knife belonging to the local gholh. The knives are called Yurglect or something similar, the vocal patterns do not translate well. As I understand, they use a special glass that forms in underground vents off the coast. Their culture places importance on them similar to how the Sith place importance on their lightsabers.

(Valerie) Really? Any Force powers associated with them? Like some primitive Force cult?

(Thelos) No such record unfortunately. I suspect the population is too small to support such a cult.

(Valerie) What do they use them for then?

(Thelos) Records indicate various rituals and ceremonies. A lot of them involve blood and forming “bonds”. A hunter that slays his first shark with one is said to have formed a bond that allows him to draw upon the strength and power of the slain shark. There are other rituals and ceremonies for many occasions and circumstances.

(Valerie) Enough, I don’t need to know all the details of their culture. I just wanted to know what it was. Could you bring some tools so that I can properly sharpen it?

(Thelos) As you wish, I must admit, everyone seems to be in a crafting mood this evening.

(Valerie) What do you mean?

(Thelos) Master Keldav has asked me to fabricate something for him by tomorrow morning as well.

   That was something to be concerned about. Was he trying to construct some sort of weapon or bomb? He might think himself better able to take care of things now that he has a lightsaber.

(Valerie) What exactly has he asked you to make?

(Thelos) All he wanted was a piece of plating with a handle and a strap on it. I didn’t see anything wrong with the request so I approved. Was I incorrect?

(Valerie) No, let it be for now.

   What in the galaxy did he want with a piece of plating? No matter, he probably had some trick up his sleeve he was wanting to try.

   A servant arrived shortly with the tools I had requested from Thelos. Setting myself down on the floor, I began the process of sharpening the glass blade. I had no idea why I was bothering with such a simple weapon. There were much more effective plastic and metal ones to be had with but a single request. Maybe it was just something to occupy myself, or maybe I saw something in that deep blood red glass that made me think of my own dreams of a proper lightsaber.

   After some work, some small cuts, and a little bit of swearing, I had something that could fit into my hand without cutting it to pieces. I also made a small sheath that strapped to my leg and then sheathed it. While it wasn’t a proper weapon for this day and age, it certainly could be useful in catching an opponent off guard – and no weapons scanner in existence would pick up something so primitive and fragile as a weapon. Another servant quietly came to remove the mess remaining from my work.

   With that done, it was time for study. I’ve been neglecting it for the last few days with the fighting and all. Mother would get on my case in the morning if I didn’t follow through. So I went to my room and found the pile of books I was supposed to thumb through. One was on the 32nd Sith war and analyses of the Republic war effort, the second was on Hutt society and customs, and the third was on Alderaan.

   The 32nd Sith war looked like all accounts to be virtually identical to the 31st and 33rd and most every other Sith war to date. Big uprising of Sith with delusions of grandeur, followed by large defection or splintering of military forces and Jedi purges. Stupid and ineffective tactics ended up limiting victories while backstabbing slowly did more damage than the Republic military. Why did they all feel the urge to destroy planets or render them uninhabitable? Breaking fleets was far more productive. Right, on to the second book.

   Hutt culture was as vulgar and unrefined as I suspected. Faer did a lot of work out there in Hutt space as an assassin and apparently made some money at it. I just can’t respect a culture that glorifies smuggling cartels and organized criminal syndicates. There is something wrong with a culture when the Head of State’s primary qualification is how much spice he was able to smuggle through Republic customs at one time. Although I will admit watching the last Huttese “election” four years ago was most entertaining, if only for the exasperated Republic customs officials caught in the middle of it.

   Last book was on Alderaan. It looked like the most pastoral and boring planet in the galaxy. Which is really saying something for a world so prominent in galactic affairs. The whole planet was a piece of art in many ways too. They even painted the grass? I can’t imagine what a hell that would be like to grow up in. I rather live in Hutt space, at least something exciting happens there every so often. I was about to put the book down in disgust when I saw a note Mother had put on it that I had overlooked earlier.

   <Keldav is from here>

   From Alderaan? Well that explains the complete lack of any real combat experience. This also puts a completely different spin on things too. I just could not fathom how someone like him could have grown up there and survived. I would have figured the locals would have killed him for being a smart ass at some point. He’s nearly been killed for that here at least three times, and it’s only been six weeks.

   As curious as the whole thing was, I really didn’t want to dig around in his past. He was annoying enough, I didn’t want to be reading about him too. I climbed into bed and fell asleep. This time I dreamed about miniature Hutts digging holes in colorful fields of grass – much to the annoyance of some farmer.

   Morning came quicker than I wanted it to. There are days like today I really want to destroy the sun just so I could sleep a little longer. Father would probably throw a fit if I did that.

   Sleep late that is. Destroying the sun would be going just a bit overboard, as amusing as the thought was.

   Getting cleaned up wasn’t pleasant either. My left arm was still sore and my right shoulder wasn’t happy if I raised my arm too high. I probably needed to have them both looked at again this morning and see if everything was working alright. I shuddered at the thought that they might have to scrape off the bacta again. That wasn’t something I wanted to experience again.

   That new servant girl of mine, Gab was her name I think, was waiting for me with a new change of clothes for the day and breakfast. I had completely forgotten about her, but Thelos didn’t. Hopefully he had her fully trained, or else this was going to be a long and frustrating experience. She did make motions to help me dress when I appeared in pain but backed off when I glared at her. Appearing weak would only invite an attack, if not now then later.

   The medic didn’t have anything constructive to say about my injuries other than my body was still having a bad reaction to the contaminated bacta they had scraped off. That was preventing the pure bacta from synchronizing completely. When I expressed concern over it, they did explain that once my body healed completely, bacta should be able to synchronize fully again. At least Jurin didn’t leave me with a long-term problem.

   Being tutored with Master Incrid followed after that. These days the tutoring involved trying to balance multiple independent tasks at once. There were some prodigies able to solve geometric puzzles, hold their body temperature at ambient, and feel how many people were in a specific building at the same time, but I always struggled with splitting my attention that way. Father had hoped that my ability to fracture my mind meant I could fracture my attention, but to no avail. This was probably a waste of Master Incrid’s time and mine.

   Soon enough it was time to spar with Kira again. When I arrived I was surprised to see Kira already there adjusting this large metallic plate strapped to his arm. Ah, he was wanting to use it as some sort of shield then? Well it might help with the sparring practices, although I doubt it. It certainly wouldn’t stand up to full powered lightsabers for long. Father appeared frustrated and annoyed about something or other.

(Valerie) Father, are you really going to let him try and use that thing?

(Father) I’ll allow it long enough to see what he thinks he is going to do with it. After that I will make a final decision.

(Kira) Oh come on, it’s just a shield, how bad can it be?

(Father) If you end up using it as a crutch and can’t show it’s use to be effective, then I am going to ban it.

   We assumed the same positions as yesterday. It was clear he was going to try and block with the shield while attacking with the lightsaber. The problem was a lot like using two lightsabers at once, you could attack or block more quickly, but lost stopping power. Ergo, a heavy enough attack would power through that defense.

   I charged like before right at him. As predicted he moved to block with the shield with the lightsaber right behind it thrust forward. One good hit of my own should send the shield wide and knock him off balance so that he wouldn’t have a clear shot.

   My lightsaber and then my body impacted the shield hard. Unlike a blocking lightsaber, it seems that the wielder’s own body weight can help to more effectively block an attack with a shield. This much was made clear as my shoulder groaned from the impact. I am taller and more powerful than Kira, but I suddenly realized I didn’t have the same mass. I barely had time to register the thrusting blade coming right at me before I jumped back.

(Father) Sigh, you failed to land a hit, but since you did finally manage to block Valerie I will allow the shield for some more time.

(Valerie) Yeah, now you can at least stand after an attack.

   I saw a flicker of annoyance in Kira’s eyes that he quickly suppressed. He’s fighting using his head and isn’t allowing his emotions to run rampant. There might be hope for this one yet.

   Several more hours of back and forth, we actually began to make progress through different stances and techniques. Adjusting to the shield became easier and easier as the day went on. First lesson was not to throw my weight against it while he’s prepared for it. Second was not to try and knock it aside, as putting enough force behind that required leaving myself too open to counterattack. Finally, I learned that ignoring it was asking for a shield butt to the face. I had been holding back how deeply I tapped into the Force until then, but the shield to the face had to be answered.

   He couldn’t keep up with my speed or enhanced strength at that point, and flailed around trying to land a hit for a bit before falling back into a more defensive position. With the initiative surrendered, it became a simple matter to dismantle his defenses and ram into him hard. Kira fell to the floor with a skid and I heard a crack of bone.

   At first I thought I had damaged my shoulder again, but seeing Kira hold his limp left arm, I saw that I may have pushed too far this time.

(Father) Valerie, in the future I would like for you to hold off on enhancing your durability, until Keldav can match you. In the meantime, resume the practice. Keldav can learn to avoid being attacked instead of blocking.

   With Kira having a broken arm? No way he would be able to keep up much longer at this rate. It was finally beginning to get interesting and this happens. Looking at Kira I could see something hard in his eyes as he looked at me and Father. The Dark Side? No, this was something different: disgust.

   Kira removed the shield from his broken arm and then retrieved his lightsaber. Practice resumed again, and I saw him try to raise his left arm out of reflex on more than one occassion. I tried to focus on his right side where the lightsaber was, but the urge for him to swing and block two handed was apparently strong. Without thinking I knocked his feet out from under him and watched as he fell on his left side with another crack.

   Now his arm was a swollen mess with the additional odd angle in it. Sparring practice was over for certain now. Father got up and left without a word leaving us there. Kira was trying to get up, but couldn’t manage the effort. He was going into shock.

   Well, chalk up one more lesson for today; it was hard to restrain your own reflexes once you’d trained enough.

(Valerie) Thelos!

(Thelos) Yes, my Lady?

(Valerie) Call the medic, I will meet him at his office. Tell him Kira is needing medical attention.

(Thelos) As you wish. The medic will be standing by when you arrive. Shall I call a servant to carry Master Keldav?

(Valerie) No, I will carry him.

   I went to pick up Kira when he lashed out at me.

(Kira) I’m fine, I can handle this on my own.

(Valerie) Right, just like how you can stand right now?

(Kira) I just need to better focus on ignoring it. So leave me alone.

   He was coughing and wheezing too, probably a rib had punctured a lung then. No way he was going to make it on his own with his level of skill. If he wasn’t going to cooperate, then I had to make him aware he had no choice in the matter. A swift punch to the jaw knocked him unconscious and he sank back to the floor. Grabbing his good arm, I lifted him up and carried him towards the medic’s office.

   Gab met us partway there and helped by grabbing Kira’s legs. The medic was waiting in his office as Thelos said. One look at Kira was enough to get him moving and he began treatment. I watched for a while before I convinced myself to leave.

   That was weird. Why did Father push so hard today? I figured he was going to call it after the first break, but he kept us going. Was he testing my ability to restrain myself? Or was he using this to push Kira to try harder in order to survive? Then there was that look of disgust on Kira’s face. I am not even sure what that was about.

   Was he punishing Kira for some failure? While unorthodox, Kira’s sparring practice today seemed to go well until I injured him. So that can’t be it. His Force control is growing if slowly, the lightsaber seems to have acted as a catalyst of sorts there. So what was he doing wrong? His emotional control is even pretty good as he never once pulled on the Dark Side.

   The Dark Side.

   Kira never pulled on it. He hasn’t pulled on it the whole time I’ve known him. He’s always either been hiding behind that annoying bravado or pulling more of that suppression bit he did today. So Father hasn’t broken him yet?

   Now that is interesting.

   Kira has been here for weeks. He has no Jedi training whatsoever so anything he has learned about the Force, he learned here. He’s been put into life and death situations and hasn’t even flinched. He has even killed with his own hands. Something is going on here and Father is having trouble overcoming it.

   I may need to pull out that book on Alderaan again. I suspect the reasons Kira is the way he is reside on that world.

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