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Old 12-28-2005, 08:35 PM   #6
JasraLantill
No One Liners
 
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Join Date: Dec 2005
Location: Scotland, UK
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Current Game: SWOTR
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Chapter Two

“The delegation from Jantessa, Masters,” the Temple guard announced to the members of the Jedi Council.

“Thank you,” said Master Vandar. The Temple guard nodded obediently and motioned the party forward. As their Sith leader approached, the Jantessan soldiers parted their ranks, allowing the solitary figure in the draping violet robes to join him.

“I am Master Vandar,” the Jedi Master addressed the Jantessan entourage. “On behalf of the Jedi Council, we welcome you to Coruscant.”

The leader of the party took a step forward. “I am Berland,” he said, his voice smooth and as confident as a statesman. “I bring you salutations and greetings from the Jantessan High Presidium. And may I present to you, Prime Keeper Ithra Do’Shaanan.”

Ithra’s hood was slowly removed, revealing a young, human female, dark haired, but with a fair complexion and pale violet eyes. Ithra and Berland both bowed courteously to the Council Jedi, but Berland made sure he did not bow so low as to lose eye contact. “We are pleased, Master Vandar, that the Jedi Council has granted our request for audience,” Ithra said.

Master Vandar bowed his head in return. “Given the reclusive nature of the Jantessans, the request was most…unexpected. Tell me, for what purpose have you come?”

Berland answered instead. “I am sent here as an envoy for the Jantessan High Presidium to ask for your assistance in a slightly unusual matter.” He paused, giving a brief look over his shoulder at Ithra. “But perhaps some history is in order first. Five years ago, two Jedi came to Jantessa and petitioned the High Presidium for an audience under the pretence of ‘facilitating communication’ with the Republic, who had just defeated the Mandalorians. Normally the Jantessans would have refused such a request by outlanders, being as they are a rather insular society, but somehow these two Jedi managed to gain favour from the High Presidium, and an audience was granted.”

Master Vandar sighed sadly. “Revan and Malak,” he said grimly.

“Yes,” Berland confirmed. “Lord Revan used the invitation to attack. Unprepared for the assault, many of the Jantessan leaders were slain. The remainder willingly submitted to Sith control, and Jantessa soon dedicated their resources to the Sith fleet. But you know this, yes?”

Master Vandar nodded. “We know of several worlds that provided resources to the Sith. Although,” he added thoughtfully, “not all of them did so willingly.”

“There were a few Jantessans who resisted,” Berland said. “But their resistance was,” he grinned, “…short-lived. The predilection Jantessans have for rules and regulations made it easy for them to adapt to Sith ways, especially once they realised there was much more to gain through collaboration than resistance. Their decision not only spared them any lasting damage to their planet’s surface, but kept their society intact. But, since the destruction of Darth Malak’s fleet, things have changed. The Jantessans are no longer servants of the Sith. Despite any ’undeserved’ rumours to the contrary,” he added quickly.

“Undeserved rumours?” Master Vrook commented acerbically. “Curious, then, that the Jantessans should choose a Sith Master to lead their delegation!”

Berland’s brow raised. “Sith Master?” he said incredulously. “Oh, you do flatter me, Master Jedi. However, you are mistaken. I am neither Master, nor Sith. I am merely...an ‘employee’ of the Jantessan High Presidium on a purely diplomatic mission.”

“Do not stand before us and deny you serve the Dark Side!” Vrook snapped. “We can all feel the disturbance in the Force, the dark power that radiates from within you!”

“Dark?” Berland snorted with amusement. “And here I was thinking I was more just a… deep shade of grey.” He gave a quick, wry grin. “I do not deny that I was once a Sith. In fact, I was one of the…administrators left on Jantessa by Lord Revan. But, being as I am your ‘guest,’ I will try to explain my particular situation to you, if only to alleviate any suspicions you may harbour.

“As I said,” Berland continued, “much has changed since the destruction of Lord Malak’s fleet. There was…unrest among the few Sith who remained on Jantessa. As word reached us of Lord Malak’s demise, most left to seek out other Sith, other Masters, but some, like me, remained. The Jantessans abhor contact with outlanders. So much so that they would rather employ others, like myself, to engage in such activities rather than do it themselves. In exchange for my services, they provide me with whatever I desire. I shall not bore you with any of the sordid details, but suffice to say I serve them because it suits me. And they accept my service because it suits them. It’s a comfortable arrangement—much more comfortable than any Sith Lord could offer me.” He turned to Master Vandar. “Now, shall I continue on to the reason for my visit, or shall I return to Jantessa and inform the High Presidium that you have refused to treat with them?”

“I believe you have explained yourself well enough for the moment,” Master Vandar replied. “Please, continue.”

Berland nodded politely. “Like I said, the Jantessans detest contact with outworlders. However, they are realists. With the defeat of Malak’s fleet, Jantessa has been left with few options for trade, mostly due to the disruption caused by the Mandalorian Wars. Only their routes with Onderon and Deralia remain, and the Jantessans cannot hope to prosper within such a limited scope. They seek new markets, but short of dealing with the Hutts or the Exchange, which they find less than desirable,” he added with a sneer of disgust, “they have few options. In short,….” Berland paused, and took a deep breath, as if it pained him to say the words. “The Jantessans want to join the Republic.”

Master Dorak, who had been quietly observing the visitors since their arrival in the Council Chambers, arched a curious eyebrow. “Then this is a matter for the Senate, not the Jedi Council.”

Berland’s eyes narrowed. “Believe you me, if I felt the Senate could help more in the matter, then I would not have bothered coming here. I have…contacts in the Senate who are more than willing to sponsor a motion for Jantessa to join, but the Prefects of the High Presidium are at odds in selecting a Senator. And therein lays the problem. They can’t exactly join the Republic if they have no one to represent them.”

Vandar frowned. “If you are asking us to choose a Senator for them, then that we cannot do.”

“You seem to be very adept at public speaking,” observed Master Zhar.

“For a Sith,” Master Vrook interrupted ascerbically.

“Why do you not represent them?” asked Master Zhar.

“Because of their stubborn penchant for the rules!” Berland snapped. He paused, taking a deep breath to regain his composure before continuing. “Although the Jantessans have allowed me certain ‘liberties’ in their society, I am still, and always will be, an outlander. Therefore, according to their ‘rules,’ the office of Senator is forbidden to me. However,” Berland gestured to Ithra, “it is not forbidden to Keeper Ithra.”

“Then I fail to see the problem,” said Master Vandar.

“Although they are isolationists,” Berland continued, “the Jantessans are not ignorant as to the role the Jedi play in the Republic. After all, you are the ‘famed mediators of the Galaxy,’” he said with more than a hint of sarcasm. “Ithra is young and inexperienced. It is their wish, their request, for the Jedi to instruct her in ways of the Republic—to impart to her the arts of diplomacy and protocol. In exchange for this service, the Jantessans promise to share their knowledge of planetary defensive shielding with the Republic. Information, I might add,” he said somewhat bitterly, “they refused to give the Sith, even during the occupation. Their shields proved quite effective against the Mandalorians. Indeed, even Lord Revan had to use subterfuge to gain his way through them. The technology could serve the Republic well.”

Master Vrook snorted with disgust. “And you think we would accept the promises of a Sith?”

Berland held up a finger in protest. “Ahem. *Former* Sith.”

“Call yourself what you will,” Vrook retorted. Turning to Master Vandar, he said, “This is obviously an attempt by the remnants of the Sith forces to spy on the Republic and the Jedi Order. To discover if we’ve been weakened by the recent wars.”

“Oh, please!” Berland interjected. “If the Sith, or the Jantessans for that matter, wished to spy on you would they have been so blatent as to send me here? A Derailian smuggler, a protocol droid, even a Mandalorian mercenary, would have been a less obvious choice!”

“Perhaps it is your intention to be obvious,” Vrook countered. “To hide in plain sight. It would not be the first time we have seen the Sith use that approach.”

“What? Do you actually believe that I *wanted* to come here?” Berland said incredulously, and he glared menacingly at Master Vrook. “Here to this…this ostentatious, overbearing Temple of Lies? To be surrounded by you so-called Masters of the Light, brimming with your archaic belief in your depraved Jedi Code, all too ready to spew forth prejudicial Jedi philosophies at even the slightest hint of the Dark Side? Why the very idea is not only revolting but….”

“Enough!” Ithra interrupted, to Berland’s obvious chagrin. “Do not berate our hosts, Berland. We are guests here.”

Berland’s jaw set, and he stiffly bowed his head to her. “My apologies, my lady.”

Keeper Ithra stepped forward. “Forgive me for my outburst, my lords,” she calmly addressed the Council, “but as Berland was specifically instructed not to dishonour you, it is my duty to intervene. He was not entirely truthful with you when he described his situation earlier. While it is true he comes at the bidding of the High Presidium, it is only with the completion of this mission will his position of envoy be secured. It is a punitive task,” she added, giving him a sideways glance, “but one he must complete for his part in the Contamination wrought by the Jedi.”

“The Jedi?” Master Vandar asked, his brow furrowing with doubt.

She nodded once. “As it is his task to explain, I shall allow Berland to continue,” and she moved back to her former place.

Berland cleared his throat. “The Jantessans hold Revan and Malak ultimately responsible for the Sith’s occupation--what they call the ‘Contamination’. And, just as they hold me responsible for once serving them, they hold you, the Jedi Order, responsible for training them in the first place. And the Jantessans desire… restitution.”

“Revan and Malak had already fallen to the Dark Side when they visited Jantessa,” Master Vandar said. “They were no longer of the Jedi Order.”

“Unfortunately, the Jantessans do not share your point of view,” said Berland. “Since the Jedi trained Revan and Malak, so the Jedi are held responsible for their actions. By agreeing to instruct Keeper Ithra, you will be redeeming yourselves in their eyes. As I reiterate, they have this unnatural penchant for adhering to the rules. They merely wish instruction about the Republic and its protocols before they ‘play the game’, so to speak. And, really, in all due respect, they aren’t asking for much in return.”

“And if we refuse their request?” Master Vrook asked suspiciously. “What then?”

Berland gave a non-committal shrug. “Then I will return to Jantessa and inform the High Presidium that their offer was vehemently rejected. Jantessa will not join the Republic, nor will they likely ever be inclined to do so in the future. Of course,” he added with a deliberately pensive sigh, “in order to secure my position with the Jantessans, I would have to seek out an alternative solution to their trade problem.” The corner of Berland’s mouth twisted upwards in an ill-boding smirk. “I imagine there are many worlds in the Outer Rim who would be most grateful to accept the Jantessan’s offer of planetary shielding in exchange for trading rights—quite possibly, even some who might even consider leaving the Republic altogether for such a grand favour. Especially considering how the Republic, and the Jedi, did such an ‘exquisite’ job in protecting them in the past,” he added sardonically.

Master Vandar frowned slightly. “We will adjourn to discuss this matter in private. Quarters will be provided to you and your party. When we are ready, you will be summoned before us to hear our decision.”

“Then I will leave you to your deliberations,” said Berland, bowing slowly. He and his party turned to leave, but as Berland reached the door, he paused, pointed a mindful finger in the air, and turned back to face Master Vandar and the Council.

“Oh, there is just one more thing,” he said with all of the shadiness of a used swoop bike salesman trying to explain away the small print. “When Lord Revan visited Jantessa he took away with him an artefact from one of their temples. The Jantessans would like you to return it to them, as a proof of your commitment to honour their request. A token of good will, more or less. I did tell them that they could hardly expect the Jedi Council to be interested in such a menial task, but…”

Vrook frowned deeply. “What sort of artefact?” he growled. “A Sith holocron, perhaps?”

Berland snorted with amusement. “No, nothing as remarkable as that, I’m afraid. To be honest, they didn’t tell me much about it. I know it’s a crystal, of sorts, and that it was housed in one of their temples until its removal by Lord Revan, but beyond that….” He shook his head. “It is my impression, however, that its value to them is more… sentimental in nature. If you decide to assist them, Keeper Ithra will provide you with more details.” He bowed curtly, and left to join up with the rest of his party.

As the door closed behind them, Master Vandar turned to one of the Jedi Temple guards. “Summon Rade Chano and the rest of the crew of the Ebon Hawk to the Council Chambers. We have much to discuss.”


Veni, Vidi, Velcro. (I came, I saw, I stuck around)
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