Impasse- Bela Kiwiiks

Kiwiiks shivered. The cave was cool whispered with the wind of many ages, but her shaking had little to do with the temperature or the chill of the breeze.

It had more to do with the artifact she clutched in her hand, a glowing sphere that pulsed almost in tune with her heart. Another pulse, another vibration in the Force... and she shivered again.

Her right hand held her lightsaber, the glowing blue beam a ray of light in the shadow of the cave. It illuminated the walls and rocky ground around her, the bones and stones at her feet, and the red-skinned Sith Lord who had appeared like an apparition from the darkness.

From his fist sprouted a blade the color of fire. "Master Jedi," he said slowly, thick, accented voice echoing off the cave walls. "Do me the honor of allowing me a moment to speak with you."

"I warn you, Sith," Kiwiiks said, steadying her voice despite the pain that burned along her leg where the Sith's saber had burned her. "Do not approach me. I am leaving with the artifact, and I do not wish to kill you to do so."

The Sith Lord cocked his head, examining her, appraising her the one does a worthy opponent before sport. In a flash of understanding Kiwiiks knew: she was sport.

He had been hunting her for days. Maybe even weeks. And she had fallen right into the trap, led him here, to this special cave, to this artifact...

Her blunder was pushed aside as she calmed herself, focused on the present.

"You are not," the Sith Lord said bluntly. "Though you are brave to try. Do you even know what it is?"

She blinked, held her lightsaber at guard. "It's an ancient Rakata Star Map," she answered warily. "And the last time a Sith Lord retrieved it, the galaxy was plunged into an eight-year war. I won't allow you to worsen the current state of things with the secrets it could reveal."

The Sith Lord smiled thinly. "Of course. Such a move would be foolish, from your point of view. I understand."
Kiwiiks frowned. She didn't like this Sith... this one who was obviously playing her. She just didn't know how.

The Sith Lord looked her up and down, nodded slightly. "I imagine that, despite your wounded state, any contest between us may end as a draw. That is a risk that, unfortunately, I cannot allow. Therefore, I propose a trade."

Kiwiiks lowered her blade a fraction of an inch, the blue light gleaming off his smooth scarlet skin. "What are you playing at, Sith?'

"I am not playing," the Sith Lord replied. "You did not come here for this artifact. Not at first. Instead, you came for the Shock Drum, just as I did, until, like you, I was... distracted." He spread his hands. "However, I found the Shock Drum first. I have activated it."

Kiwiiks' eyes widened. "You what?"

He held up a placating hand. "Master Jedi, please. There is time for you to deactivate it. I will give you the coordinates and the activation codes in exchange for the Star Map." He deactivated his lightsaber and placed it on his belt, held his hands behind his back regally. "I offer you a simple choice, nothing more."

Kiwiiks flicked her eyes to the hilt, thinking fast. There is no way to know if he is telling the truth; the Force is clouded. Even so... if he is... I cannot allow innocents to be endangered. Not while I can help them. But if he takes the Star Map... something much worse might occur.

She stilled, breathing in and out through her nose. "This is a trap," she observed.

The Sith Lord did not disagree. "From a certain point of view, of course," he inclined his head. "I am a warrior. I am still fighting a war. I have merely constructed a battle in which you lose either way."
Clever Sith, Kiwiiks thought. "Then I am afraid I must reject your game, Sith," she said easily. "I refuse to play."

The Sith Lord frowned. "Ah. I had hoped you wouldn't do that." He lightsaber returned to his hand, and they began, almost like they had accorded it a long time ago.

The duel in the cave began carefully, as they traded a few testing blows, sizing the other up for the coming bouts. Kiwiiks held her saber steady, blue light tracing the red of her foe's and blocking as she shifted her feet back and forth. Already she had concocted a plan. Play his game, and she would lose; despite his earlier prediction of her skills, she knew when she was beaten. But to win, she did not have to kill him.

She merely had to get away. If she could do that, contact help, they could, perhaps, find the Shock Drum and save everyone at once.

It was the only way. It was the Jedi way.

The Sith Lord lunged suddenly and she batted aside his blade, scraping it along the cave wall. He struck for her side and she parried, chopping at his head, which he blocked as well. She spun lightly, nimbly gathering the Force to leap over him and land behind him, a free sprint for the outside desert.

Or, at least, that was how she planned it; Sith normally did not defend, nor did they stay still. They always pressed the attack, always were aggressive. This Sith was different, and he casually caught her lightsaber when she landed and used his superior strength to pull her back around; she'd have had to let go of her saber otherwise, but holding onto it brought her back to her corner, with her enemy between her and freedom.

Kiwiiks felt a trickle of dread crawl up her spine. He was toying with her...

"Come, now, Master Jedi," the Sith Lord said quietly. "Give me your best. Let us decide this honorably, in single combat."

"I do not have time for this."

"You have all the time in the world, Master Kiwiiks."

The duel began again, and this time he came forward, striking quickly and heavily in an attempt to press her against the cave wall. She felt her back hit stone and she ducked, his red blade burning the rock where her neck had been, and rolled onto her injured leg, hissing at the pain but managing to bring her blade up in time to stop him from chopping off her head.

She had to drop the Star Map to do so. The glowing sphere bounced as it hit the ground, and rolled a few feet away.

Kiwiiks narrowed her eyes and she shoved out, pushing him back just enough to scrape together a telekinetic handful of cave dust and chuck it at his eyes. It was a dirty trick, but it was necessary.

It had the intended effect, and the Sith Lord backed away, batting at his face, and in the moment she had gained Kiwiiks scooped up the artifact and pressed it against her chest like a newborn babe, returning her saber to guard as she waited for him to attack.

The Sith Lord sniffed, eyed her. Saw that she was barely breathing hard, that she was collected, that she was ready for him to attack.

Kiwiiks took a deep breath and sank deeper into Soresu, the defensive form allowing her all the protection she would ever need.

"I underestimated you, Master Kiwiiks," the Sith Lord said. "You truly will not give up the artifact. How long, I am curious, are you willing to stall me?"

Kiwiiks didn't have an answer, other than the one she knew in her heart. "As long as it takes," she said readily. As long as it takes for help to come, if it is coming at all...

"Days?" was the query, impressed.

Kiwiiks inclined her head. "Weeks," she said. "I will never let you have this artifact while I breathe." The Shock Drum might kill them all, but the price of her giving in to him would be far worse.

The Sith Lord nodded. "I believe you," he said earnestly. To her great surprise, he gave her a deep, regal bow, exposing his head and neck to her but knowing that as a Jedi she would not strike. "I am Lord Praven," he introduced. "It is my honor to meet you in combat."

Kiwiiks stared, but accepted the change in the faithful way only a Jedi could. "Bela Kiwiiks," she nodded back.

"Well met." The Sith Lord sniffed again, and nodded. "I believe I will rest for a while. At the mouth of the cave, of course," he added with a small smile. "I did tire myself chasing you across this infernal desert. And you had the advantage of a dewback, although..." He trailed off, looking at the spot where Kiwiiks' ride had been.

Unfortunate, but the poor creature was frightened. "Then we are both stranded," she summarized.

"Indeed," he pondered, and shut off his lightsaber. "I shall begin again soon enough. I advise you to gather your strength as well." And he spun on his heel and marched to the mouth of the cave, just as he had said he would, and sat, crossing his legs and entering into a light meditation. Kiwiiks felt the dark tendrils of passion swirling around him, mixed with an odd cocktail of... peace and serenity.

He was the strangest Sith she had ever met. He was also her enemy, and she would take the moment of rest his odd behavior had afforded her. She placed the Star Map on the ground and knelt, entering a healing trace to restore mobility to her leg.

And there they sat, resting. Jedi Master and Sith Lord. Mortal enemies, determined to kill or best one another, no matter how long it took...

Above them, high in the Tatooinian sky, a red and white starship blasted through the atmosphere and burned sky to the Anchorhead spaceport. Beside Kiwiiks, the Star Map thrummed, almost in anticipation, then quieted.

And she breathed in, breathed out. Breathed in, breathed out. There is no emotion, there is peace...

Breathe in. Breathe out.

(O)(O)(O)

A/N: Check my author's page for story and chapter notes. Also, I have a new Old Republic fic called Flashpoints; check it out if you want insight into the other eight perspectives.