Standing around waiting was always the hardest part. She was much more comfortable in motion, this idleness frustrated her beyond words. Shifting uncomfortably in her new armor, Mahret chided herself for wearing it before breaking it in properly. It will see combat soon enough she mused as she surveyed the Sith on the dais before her. One she recognized as the man who brought her group of supplicants from obscurity at the academy to join The Sith Order. A few of the others, milling about the thrones looked familiar but none she had met. One seemed asleep, another seemed involved in torturing a slave, the others were involved in conversation or looking vaguely bored. It surprised her a little to see several Chiss members of the Dark Council, nice that they allowed other races; disappointing that the races seemed to be limited to the Chiss and Sith Purebloods. She could hear her lover, G’s voice in her mind, complaining about the subservient status of the Rattataki people and the Empire’s slow movement toward inclusion; it was one of their frequent arguments. Mahret’s participation in this tournament would likely start another. She wasn’t impulsive but she knew to trust the Force when it guided her and here was where she was meant to be. Mahret pushed down these distracting thoughts and focused her preparation.
She rolled her shoulders slowly, partly to relax her muscles, and partly to find comfort in this new suit. She would need to get used to such vanities if she intended to stay here, the Dark Council and the Order itself was as much for show as it was a base of power. How she dressed would be judged. She tried not to stare at the Dark Council members, being noticed was sometimes far worse than being ignored and she had no intention of ending up a body slave today.
She kept her face toward the Sith addressing the group but stole glances behind him to The Hand, who seemed to be intensely gazing at the group of would be apprentices. She recalled a phrase, one thrown at her as a warning from another supplicant at the Academy, a stooge of some idiot or another that was trying to intimidate her. He warned her that his boy was the alpha monster and she should know her place. She left his lifeless body in the deserted hallway he’d accosted her in and never looked back. Alpha monster had seemed an interesting turn of phrase though, she hadn’t thought of that incident in years. Until now.
The Hand… Umras Shade radiated power, he certainly fit the part of Hand. His face was obscured by markings and scars, his armor, battered black and blood red, his shoulders reaching several hands across. This was a man who commanded a room by his very presence in it. This was not some scheming politician or debauched Darth, this was a warrior; an Alpha Monster. Closing her eyes, Mahret let the force pour over her. The fear radiating from the other acolytes, she soaked it in and exhaled it in a breath. The energy of the Dark Council was quick, sharp spikes, like lightning dancing across her skin, needle points of pain, focusing her. The energy around Him was a low thrum. It was rumored at the academy there were powerful Sith who filled people with such dread that they were nauseated in their presence. This was close, the power radiating from him left an unsettled feeling like a rock in the pit of her stomach. The Hand was coiled energy awaiting an outlet. He was, she decided, the only possible choice as her master.
Her first opponent was an assassin. Assassins, the bane of her existence. The difficulty in fighting one was that they tended to vanish. Fighting an enemy that hides in the shadows and makes surprise attacks was difficult under the best of circumstances; in this confined area with so many things to hide behind… The few Jedi of this type she met on the battlefield were difficult enough, but without her comrades to give warning as to the location, this would prove most difficult. As soon as the combat began her enemy slipped into the shadows, leaving her to chase thin air. She knew the attack would follow so she swallowed her frustration and let it fuel her rage. Right on cue her opponent attacked from behind, temporarily stunning her, but the advantage didn’t last. Pressing the attack she kept her enemy close, dealing as much damage as possible before the assassin slunk away to heal; a well timed force choke prevented him from moving as she savaged him with her blade again. Before he could retreat she threw him across the room and lit onto him until he lay prone at her feet, defeated. It was only then she felt the considerable damage this assassin had wrought. She nodded at him and walked back to her spot, facing the Dark Council’s thrones.
The Hand applauded; she beamed, and the next pair faced off. She was called to combat twice more, another assassin, this one with a curious strategy. Since his arrival at the Apprentice Tournament, this one had been flirting and chattering nonstop. Mahret wondered if he had sustained a head injury or if this was a stratagem on his part to convince the other acolytes he was no threat. Clever if it worked; though she was too focused to let it distract her, he would as likely lose his tongue or worse if the Dark Council found his behavior disrespectful. Despite his efforts to cloak himself in the shadows she was able to see him and though he fled, she pursued and sent him from the field defeated.
Her final opponent was a sorcerer. These force magic users were unpredictable; each one she’d faced had a different style, and some were frustratingly difficult to kill. There were only two constants she could rely on with these magicians; they would eventually cocoon themselves in force energy to heal and most importantly, they had to face her to cast their magic. That would be her opportunity. As the guard counted down to the start, the sorcerer cast a weak shield of protection and squared off. The Hand wouldn’t be impressed with caution; she took a calculated risk and rather than start this duel from a distance, she opted to close the gap as the countdown began. With luck it would unbalance or confuse her opponent and offer her the chance to strike. “Two” came the announcement and she had cleared half the arena running headlong at the sorcerer, “One” and she was at her and as the signal to begin sounded she had moved past her enemy and quickly moved behind to unleash a flurry of attacks. The sorcerer, clearly unsettled but undaunted, landed a few force magic spells but as Mahret’s blade cut into her robes she surrounded herself to heal. Mahret smirked, it had paid off, now all she had to do was wait out this healing and keep her opponent on the defensive. Slow, glancing blows testing the shroud of magic and then it fell and with it came her blade’s response. A force choke prevented the sorcerer from moving, followed by slash after slash, the sorcerer attempted to heal but was interrupted then thrown across the room. A blur of attacks and the sorcerer was at her feet, defeated.
At last the competition was over, her hands shaking with fury and blood-lust she was declared the day’s victor. The Hand crossed the room to stand over her, seeming even more imposing as he towered nearly two heads taller. “You have fought well. Many would take you as an apprentice. You may have your pick.”
She dropped to her knee. “You, My Lord Hand.”
He nodded with a smile, “As it should be.”