Star Wars Roleplay: Chaos

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Another gust of heat-soaked wind sputtered across Cedric's pale features.

The youth muttered a curse as dust and other forms of detritus were drawn across his visage, though he had grown rather used to such environmental intrusions. It was important to understand just what his people were living with here on Neelgaimon, even if the experience was anything if pleasant.

Alone, the gray eyed warden marched into the town. His guards had been left aboard the Chimaera, and now assumed governing functions of the vessel despite their protest. Cedric wished to see things through the eyes of the people he had been charged with protecting, and doing so with six armed men at his back would provide mutated results indeed. With this in mind, the heir to the Grayson family had come alone to the dust-choked world.

The majority of Neelgaimon was overrun with factories. It provided more than its fair share for the Dominion's crusades, and its people were enjoying the benefits of a thriving economy as a result. Even still, certain parts of this forgotten world were still left to the wills of the wilds. Not everyone could find a job in the mega-factories, and some simply refused to work such paltry jobs. They preferred the appeal of the outdoors and the lack of laws that came with living under the radar.

It was here that Cedric now wandered.

The town itself was a bustling little place with a name he could not adequately pronounce. Speeders and people milled about the narrow streets, kicking up dust and all manners of other obstructions as they went along their way. Men and women haggled for resources in the street, and children bumbled about in search of something new to play with for the day.

Clad in a simple jacket and a brown cloak that reached his ankles, Cedric was nondescript. No one paid the young man any mind as he moved from one alley to the next, observing all that went on.

And just as none paid him any mind, no one cared to look at the group of six men that came into town aboard armed speeder bikes.

[member="Asha Hex"]
Dust billowed around her, threatening to blind her vision and tear at her skin. Nothing new there. She was no stranger to the dark, nor to injury. Her body was littered with innumerable scars, some only skin deep, others looked more like great crevices. None of them were visible, at least... Not if she could help it.

Each second step she took was characterized by a weak limp that had never quite fixed itself. After two and a half years, she might have expected that it would. The scarring remained, an ugly burnt pockmark on her inner thigh, but she knew that the nervous damage had healed many moons ago. Didn't stop it from hurting like nobody's business though, did it?

The sand that kicked up with each step she took reminded her of Korriban. For a decidedly dark world, of archaic mystery and wonder, she had spent a lot of impartial time there. As an observer, an onlooker. Unlike the birthworld of the Sith, the sun here actually penetrated into the air causing high temperatures. Now that was different, and not a welcome change either.

Her durasteel prison had been nothing short of a mobile nexus. It had been perpetually freezing. And the planets she had since visited were decidedly temperate. She had not experienced heat in a long time, and she was struggling with it.

Neelgaimon was simply a stop off. A place to refuel and stretch her legs before she moved on, never stopping in one place for too long. Outrunning a fate that could catch up with her at any moment.

Here, on the edge of nowhere, she felt ... safer. Or was that what he wanted her to feel? Truly it was exhausting, all of this second guessing. At times she wished that he would get it over and done with. He never did, of course. He just left her wondering.

Azrael fared no better in the heat than she, it seemed. The little ball of fluff clung to her shadows and mewed incessantly.

"I know, I know... We'll find somewhere to drink soon, Az', I promise."

Why she had parked so far from the town she didn't know. Maybe she thought she needed the exercise? Yeah right. She spent most of her life running around, she was as thin as a stick and barely ate. If anything she needed less of it.

The thin slither of metal around her neck was burning, though that was a common occurrence. This time it wasn't all in her mind, she realized, the damn thing was a heatsink. She grit her teeth, and pulled the cuff of her shirt over it to try and lessen the temperature. Last thing she needed was a blistered neck. How would she explain that to someone?

[member="Cedric Grayson"]
"...return to Naboo. We're all waiting for you there."

The words played through Cedric's headphones for the umpteenth time. They were all too familiar now; the cadence of the feminine voice and the kindness it held was like a lost friend to him. Once the recording had ended, he tabbed it again, eager to hear the musings of his late progenitors before the trap of time had absconded with them to the great beyond.

Such thoughts left the Archlord with a sense of melancholy not easily broken, but then that was better than nothing, wasn't it?

With a wave of his hand, he sent off one of the Ithorians that had tried to sell him some kind of mechanical device that looked more like a bomb than the engine he claimed it to be. The alien had not appreciated the refusal, sputtering curses and other niceties as he'd trotted off on his way.

Cedric took it all in stride.

"Eh?" The youth came to a halt near the center of town, his brow furrowing. Something lingered on the edge of his mind, like the realization that one had left behind something particularly important after leaving the house. He turned about, gray eyes centering upon a young woman that looked to be about his age.

She had red hair, of which he noticed first. The youth came to a halt, rather obviously peering at this creature whose presence had so perplexed his thoughts.

And then the guns went off.

A few fellows fell. Others threw themselves at the feet of the gang. Six had come in on speeders, though one could easily see that they numbered around twenty. All were clad in shoddy leather armor and armed with weapons ranging from slugthrowers to military grade assault rifles.

A few folks drew weapons to stop them, and swiftly found themselves strewn across the dust caked road in bloody piles.

Cedric just blinked at it all, before following his instincts and pinning himself behind one of the building walls. He immediately keyed on his commlink, only to find the signal jammed.

The ruffians moved from one small home to the next, looting, shooting, and participating in other heinous activities better left unsaid. Slave collars were slapped upon the necks of those young and smart enough to submit when the weapons were pointed their way. Others fled, some fought, and most died.

Gray eyes fell once again upon the red-haired girl. This wasn't right.

[member="Asha Hex"]
Azrael did not cease in his mews, and she realized after another moment or so that his fur was raised in warning. She had learned quickly that her little friend could sense when danger was afoot, no doubt his feline kind had senses the likes of which she could never comprehend, and quite quickly the mews turned into hisses.

And then came the sound of blaster fire.

No hesitation, no moment of consideration, Asha scooped the little kitten up into her arms and fled behind the nearest wall. She cast her gaze around, desperate to make sense of the situation she had walked into.

What is it with you and walking into chaos? That's what landed you in the lap of Aellin, and look where that got you!

For once her mind did not go to the dark place, the one which spoke of paranoia and a certainty that this was her Master's doing. Far from it, this was not as tactful as the man she had spent so long at the feet of. Too much noise.

Her eyes fixed upon a group of youths, many years her junior, who had been caught among the fray. Those who were clearly not the target of this hostile mob's assault, but would be swept beneath the rolling tide all the same. She reached for weapons that were no longer present, even after so long the reminder that her sabers lay amidst some savanna on a world far from here came as a surprise.

And she hadn't even bothered to pick up a blaster during her brief time with Jericho.

When a stray bolt struck one of the children, however, Asha knew she had to act fast. Weapon or no weapon.

One look stopped Azrael in his tracks before he could even think about following her, and he was not so stupid as to run into the line of fire, her little ball of fluff. And then she was gone.

She ducked and weaved between all manner of objects which lined the streets: speeders, trashcans, other signs of ordinary life. Each was used to shield her as she made her way toward the children.

While she had long since fallen out of touch with the Force, which had kept her from reaching out to her Papa in her time of need, in this instance she drew upon it readily. And though she felt the sting of bolts against her right shoulder, and along her left arm, she managed to get through with her life.

The children were just a few small steps a way, cowering around their fallen friend. A lumbering oaf with shock collars in his grasp had spotted them, and strode over on the other side of them. Faster than she had approached, with all her ducking and diving.

Without any further consideration or thought for her life, Asha jumped in the vain hope of knocking the children out of his path. She would protect them with her life if she had to. They were children, she did not want them to lose their innocence as quickly as she had.

[member="Cedric Grayson"]
A hand fell toward the familiar weapon held within the confines of his cloak. His fingers danced about cold metal of the weapon, a dozen ideas forming in the back of his mind. Fleeing amidst all this chaos would not be particularly difficult, but then that would also defeat his purpose for being here. He could not rightly leave these people to his fate, even if they had chosen to live outside the society he'd helped to build specifically to counter this situation.

The Archlord had no right to judge.

Drawing the sword here would have alerted the pirates to his presence, and then he would find himself to be the center of their attention. A brief moment of hesitation flitted across his features. If he were to die here, or perhaps be captured, then the Dominion would falter. It would not continue without him serving as its focal point. The factions within would break out into war with one another, and he doubted the senate would be able to reign them all in before the damage became irreversible.

Was a single village of people worth all that trouble?

The red-haired girl did something unexpected. Rather than flee, she took flight toward a group of children. One of the youth's had taken a bolt to the back, and was lying inert upon the dirt, quite likely dead. The other children were seemingly mesmerized by the expiration of their companion, and it was only the intervention of the girl that saved their lives. Cedric watched as she was struck down by blaster bolts and cast to the sand like some insignificant prophet that had flown too close to the gods.

The decision was made for him.

Pale fingers were held outstretched toward the man that approached the group. Ethereal tendrils reached out from those digits, ensconcing the man in an invisible cocoon. The cocoon lifted him up, and slammed him so hard against one of the nearby walls that the material it was made out of cracked.

He slumped to the ground, unconscious and likely crippled.

Mephirium's lightsaber hissed to life in Cedric's hands. Never the greatest duelist, the youth lacked much grace as he stepped into the opening, lazily batting aside bolts that would have skewered most. Many of the bolts penetrated his defenses, and dissipated harmlessly against the shield produced by the belt-bound generator he always carried.

His cowl was blown back, revealing cold gray eyes, a mess of short raven hair, and a visage that was anything if not of noble birth.

One of the raiders fell, a bolt having been redirected into his throat. His wounding brought the group a moment of reprieve, one Cedric used to draw in a deep breath and turn toward the woman.

"Take the children and go." He muttered, his voice stern yet strangely quiet. Most of the town was either in chains or had already made their way to the outskirts, and Cedric had no illusions about being able to fight off this many raiders. They would all perish very shortly if they remained.

"If you can walk, I will follow."

[member="Asha Hex"]
Pain shot through her lower abdomen as she pushed the children to the ground, out of the line of fire and the behemoth's path. Every fiber of her being screamed in response, her already sore thigh throbbed from how she had landed, and when she attempted to push upright, to ensure that her efforts had not been in vain, she found herself unable to do so.

She heard their breathing though. Even with the distant screams, the gunfire, the voices balking commands to those already collared, she realized that the children were beside her. On the opposite side to their pursuer.

Face in the sand, she gave herself a moment of respite. And then another. Breathing laboured. Her mind flashed back to another time, when she lay sprawled very much the same way against the blood soaked floor of a tavern. Then the pain had been along her back, and within the hand which still had not entirely healed. A misunderstanding turned sour.

The sound of duracrete and bone cracking was enough to rouse her from the suffocating memories. Whether she had actually blacked out for a moment or not was uncertain, so vivid were her flashbacks, all she knew was that someone was stood close by - fending off any who came toward them - and was insisting that she get the children away.

The children. Of course. That meant they were okay... As okay as they could be given what had just been witnessed.

Another attempt at rising, this time she pushed through the resistance and the pain with but a grunt of discomfort, and found herself on unstable footing. Her torso hurt like nobody's business, and she daren't look to see what damage she'd sustained. Instead she settled one hand over the impact site and turned to the children.

They were no longer crying, they simply stared. Asha knew that look.

Wasting no time she used her free hand to usher the children away from the main hub of activity, her limp far worse than it had been in months. By now the blasters had all but died down, with the fiend's attentions being on those they had already captured. It was clear that very few had actually escaped, and fewer still with their lives.

She owed hers to the stranger now hot on her heel.

[member="Cedric Grayson"]
Stroke, swipe, turn, duck.

Stroke, swipe, twist, jump.

Dodge, dodge, twist, swing.

Swing, stroke, charge, cle-

The blaster bolt caught Cedric hard in the shoulder. A curse was spat from his lips as the fabric instantly melted along with the pale skin beneath. The shield had given out, leaving Cedric's defenses only to his skill with the blade. Problem was, that skill was nowhere near paramount.

The pain made his hands shake; his entire body was jarred. Another bolt soared toward him, and was narrowly batted away with the broad end of his weapon. Realizing that death would soon dig its claws into him, the youth back peddled away from the main road.

With a show of telekinetic force, he slammed a mass of broken crates into the center of the road. Men that chose to pursue found themselves crushed between the weight of the crates. The sounds of bones snapping and the screams of crushed men being strangled by the immense weight pressed upon their chests drew Cedric from his pain-induced stupor.

With a hiss, his lightsaber died, and like survivalist he was, Cedric turned to run. Those left in the town paid him little mind now. They'd found themselves quite the haul in both loot and lives, a single young man, woman, and a few children was nothing to fuss over.

Cedric kept moving until his legs simply ceased to work. The evening had come to pass, and the suns of Neelgaimon now dipped low over the distant mountains. The group would come upon a shallow cave carved naturally into the side of one of these mountains many miles from the town, and it was here that Cedric gestured for them to stop.

"I...think we're...far enough," he gasped between heavy breaths. "They won't come up here. The terrain is too much of a mess for their vehicles. Too rocky." He continued as he managed to regain control of his breathing. A thin sheen of sweat coated his pale flesh, along with tinges of dirt and other detritus. "Wounds. We need to treat the worst wounds now," he mumbled, waving a hand toward the children. "Shirts up and spin. Pant legs up to."

A shock of pain ran up his shoulder, though he ignored it. The wound had cauterized itself - nothing really needed to be done by way of treatment. Gray eyes traveled to the red-hair. "That includes you too."

[member="Asha Hex"]
On and on and on she ran, until the children all but collapsed and her own legs stiffened. Breathless, panting, uncertain of whether they were out of the clear, the little ones tried to press on. Naturally that meant so too did Asha. Not once did she look back. She had no idea if they were being followed, by friend or foe or otherwise, all she knew was that they would not be safe as long as those thugs remained.

But what could she do? She had been cast into the world defenseless. Aellin's decision to utilize her for his plotting had placed a wedge between Asha and her Father, the man she usually did all her traveling alongside. The man she had secretly relied upon, even when assuring him she was fine going it alone.

You hadn't been fine, though, had you? And now look... Papa can barely look you in the eye. You're left to wander the Galaxy aimlessly, alone. Not even your captor wanted you in the end, Asha.

The longing she had for both Father and Captor was unparalleled. Especially in moments like these, where hardship and strife were in abundance. Jericho would have known what to do. He would have ensured nobody left this world in chains. Aellin? Well... He wouldn't have let her leave his side in the first place. There was a safety in that, a comfort even. In the hands of the Sith she had never had to really think. Her decisions were never her own.

Only now that they had slowed to a crawl did she hear the heavy footfalls just behind them, and a quick glance over her shoulder revealed the man from earlier. The one who had no doubt saved all of their lives. He seemed just as exhausted as the rest of them, and so she was more than happy to oblige when he bade them to halt.

Down by his feet, vying for her attention with pathetic little mews, was Azrael. How glad she was to see him, how grateful she was that her tiny companion had made it through the fray.

She said nothing as they headed toward a cave, far too tired to even think up the words to say. The children collapsed into a heap once inside, and Asha crouched by their side paying each one the same level of attention and care. Delicately touching their cheeks to try and assure them that they were safe.

Only then, when they had settled, did she turn to the man and truly look upon him. Nobody she had ever seen before, but that shouldn't come as a surprise. Asha knew so few in this Galaxy.

As he balked his orders, Asha's lips pressed into a very slight line. The children could barely lift their heads, much less stand, but even so she knew the importance of checking for injuries. One by one she helped them up, holding their hands for support so that they didn't simply topple over. For the most part the children remained unscathed, bearing a few light grazes from their tumbles.

One, a young girl, had a gash on her head, but it had long since stopped bleeding. Another, a slightly older boy, had taken a blaster to the rib. Thankfully it had simply grazed the very edge of his torso, but it seemed to be causing him no small measure of pain.

She did a quick headcount, noting that there were five children who had made it with them. Three boys, two girls. Two of them had a distinct look about them, likely siblings, the rest were as varied as they came though all were human.

For her own part, Asha shook her head. She did not need seeing to by a stranger, and she had no intentions of letting him see the mess that lay beneath her shirt. Aellin had left more than just mental marks on her, after all.

"Thank you" she finally said, having quite forgotten to speak up until this point. "We wouldn't have made it without you."

Lowering herself back to the ground, kneeling with a posture that was all too perfect and spoke of practice, Asha could not help but wince. How many times she had been struck she could not say, and how it was that she was still breathing was another mystery. She reached beneath her shirt and lay her hand over the most sensitive burn, soothing the surface in a heartbeat.

That was one positive to come from all the abuse she'd suffered, both at Aellin's hand and since. She'd had more cause to practice self-healing. Whether or not she could transfer that knowledge over to help the children was another matter, though the way that the stranger had taken control of the situation she wondered if she would need to.

[member="Cedric Grayson"]
The cave was anything if not uncomfortable. The rocks was jagged and uneven, the air moist from the waters that ran below. The smell of lichen and other growths oozed up from the earth below, and Cedric couldn't help but wonder if others had used this place for a. Similar purpose.

From his rather uncomfortable position, the youth checked over each and everyone of the children. He lacked the tenderness and the natural care the red-haired woman possessed, but he made up for such losses with raw mental acumen. He observed each child as they did their little twirls, and tore open the backpack he carried upon being confronted with the two that had the worst of it.

The little girl cried when cleaned the gash in her skull. She only ceased when when the bacta patch - one of only four - was applied it only took a few moments for the drugs to do their work, and she was curled into a tight little ball at the center of the floor a few moments later. The boy received a similar treatment, though he remained stubbornly awake, watching the stretch of orange land below for their pursuers. The boy would see no one. Cedric had already taken the time required to feel out their surroundings and look specifically for their friends from the village. None were nearby.

The girl's words drew him from his stupor.

"I was frozen. I only jumped into things when you did, and all I did was redirect a few shots." He answered honestly. There was no sense of modesty to his words: only truth. He would always give credit where it was due. "I didn't expect them to be so brazen. I'd heard there were still raider problems in the outskirts, but never anything this bad."

His brow furrowed as he thought of the village: of the screams of the men dying and the women facing a far more vile fate before their end. Yes, the senator was going to have to deal with quite a few choice words.

"My name is Cedric," he offered his left hand, only to have his shoulder burn in protest. Grimacing, he moved to offer the other hand instead. "The next town I Korin, and that's quite a few days away on foot. My comma were broken in the struggle - might anyone else have an extra?"

None of the children raised any hands. Cedric just nodded.

"I suppose that's fitting with our luck thus far."

[member="Asha Hex"]
Where the little girl fell upon the floor, exhaustion mingled with the effects of the patch, Asha found she could not allow her to simply lay amidst the rubble. Delicately, though it severely pained her to do so, she brought the child into her lap. She was the youngest of the five, no doubt terrified and wanting her parents. Asha knew that feeling all too well, having only ever had her Father to rely upon. She cradled that child the way Jericho had cradled her, and looked toward the man who called himself Cedric.

Shifting the weight of the child to one side, wincing at the pressure it brought upon her wounds, she reached out to shake his hand. Such a normal gesture given the situation. "Asha" she said, before returning her hand to support the child who now slept soundly. She knew that she had wounds to tend to, she could feel them lining her body, from both the blaster and her fall. But she would need time and privacy to properly tend to them. And while they hurt like nobody's business, and remained tender, they could wait.

"Where were they taking those people?" There was a very good chance Cedric knew as little as she, but it was worth asking. The very thought of others forced into servitude, a life that no longer served their own needs, sickened her to the core, and she absentmindedly lifted one hand to touch the thin band of metal around her neck.

Five had made it out, not including the pair of them, she could only pray others had too.

At the mention of commlinks, she could only frown. The only one she had ever owned had broken back on Thule during the thunderstorm, when she'd found herself tossed around like a ragdoll. She hadn't thought to get another since leaving the Graveyard... Now she was sorely regretting that decision.

"I can help get the children there." It wasn't as though she had anywhere else to be, or a purpose. They deserved to be safe again.

Outside shadows had well and truly fallen over the land, casting the cave into darkness. Removing her jacket, she bundled it up and set it down alongside the youngest child, allowing her some comfort for her injured head.

Then she lifted her shirt, fingertips poking and prodding at the injured spots to check for tenderness. As though she had to. No fancy bacta patches for her, just time, patience, and thing she hated to need. Curato Salva was no quick fix, not for her at least, but it was better than nothing. It had healed the majority of her wounds in the past, though many remained as bad as they had been the day they were inflicted due to the corruption of the Graveyard. Even she could not fully mend them.

Countless scars lined the front of her body, gashes that broke through flesh not just skin, the worst actually lay upon her back but for once that was not her focus. The long line which traveled along her spine was aching, but that was no unfamiliar occurrence. The darkness had seeped into it from the tendrils he had used to lash her, it would take a miracle to stop that.

"How are your wounds?" she asked him, through the darkness, as the children slept away their aches and pains. She was willing to help in anyway she could, though she had very little to offer.

[member="Cedric Grayson"]
Cedric watched in silence as she tended to the children.

In that silence, it occurred to the young Archlord that he had no idea how to deal acknowledge their situation. The children needed tending to, and while he could offer basic medical aid, anything beyond that was above him. He had no idea how to properly comfort a child, aside from giving them a hug perhaps. Such things were often learned from parent, and Cedric's personal experience with family made his education in such matters null.

And, despite himself, he found that such an understanding made him uncomfortable. A pit of anxiety formed in the center of his stomach; an anxiety of sort that he was not particularly familiar with. What kind of men could willingly send legions of souls to their death and not be able to comfort their children in the aftermath? Did that make him inept? A bad leader?

The girl's words yanked him away from his ruminations.

"You take care of the kids well," he stated dumbly, "I...don't know. Neelgaimon's big population centers have since been civilized, for lack of a better word. I don't really see them going anywhere save for offworld. There has to be some kind of corruption on the lower political levels. We have too many people on this planet for this to unnoticed."

His brow furrowed, "You won't be taking them there alone. They're my problem too now - we're going to the same place anyway." He muttered, a quiet sigh falling from his lips. The majority of the children had either fallen asleep, or would soon. No longer having to censor himself, the youth sat up from his position amidst the rocks.

"I'm alright. A shot went through my shoulder, but it cauterized itself," he grimaced, the pain of movement shooting up the wounded limb. "Odds are they've moved on to the next town. We might not find anything there once we arrive, but we need to try at the very least."

He paused, gray eyes falling to meet her own. "I thought it'd be a few more years until I was taking care of children," he huffed; a poor attempt at humor, but an attempt nonetheless.

"You never gave me your name. I can't go on just calling you Red - well, I suppose I could."

[member="Asha Hex"]
Done assessing her own sorry state, she pulled her shirt firmly back down over her body and turned her attention to creating some sort of light. No torch on her today, it felt so odd to be without any sort of equipment but that was the deal she'd been struck. There wasn't exactly sticks-a-plenty either. Maybe they would have to remain in this eerie state of half-light? Her eyes had adjusted for the most part, but that didn't mean anything. What about the man? What about the children?

"I know how they must be feeling" she offered in response to the compliment, shrugging her shoulders before wincing. Yeah, probably not the best thing to do given the state she was in. "Scared, alone, forced from their parents... It's not right. I know I wanted someone to hold me, to take care, figured they'd feel the same way."

How many nights had she cried herself to sleep, voice hoarse after calling for her Papa? And she had been older than these children, mid teens where all of these were under the age of ten if she were to guess. It didn't bear thinking about.

"Do you have a torch in that pack? Or... A firestarter? Anything that can help disperse some of this darkness."

He went on to explain the current state of this world, something she truthfully hadn't paid attention to when coming to it. This had supposed to be a pit stop. Nothing more. Now her ship was goodness knows where, hopefully still a mile or so from the village where she left it, and she had gained a quest of sorts. Get the kids to safety. They could do that between them.

Absentmindedly allowing her hand to settle against the back of the smallest child, feeling an urge to keep her safe, Asha watched as the man sat upright and stared through the darkness toward her. He claimed to be okay, but she'd heard that wince and knew there was likely more to it than he was letting on.

"I hope they lay low for a while... It will make it harder to find those they've stolen, but it might mean we have a chance at warning the others."

His next statement had her smile, though it didn't quite meet her eyes. Sometimes life decided you had to experience things ahead of time. Between the two of them she knew that they could figure out the basics over the next few days. Her primary concern was food. She had nothing with her, and from the look of his pack he couldn't have too much himself. Seven mouths to feed, to hydrate, over several days.

If they pulled this off, it would be a miracle. Perhaps she'd even find cause to trust in the Force again... Though that was a long shot.

"You can call me Red if you'd rather, though my name is Asha." She didn't care that she'd had to repeat her name, it had been a taxing day for all of them.

[member="Cedric Grayson"]
"You've got it Red." He offered her a tiny little smile. It held a warmth that was lost to the rest of the cave; this was a cold, dark, and hostile place. It was only fitting that he sought something of the opposite, or so he tried anyway. If he could not give the children any sort of comfort, perhaps he could do so for Asha. Rallying the warriors was always something he'd been particularly skilled at. Raising the spirits of his companion-of-chance wasn't so far from rallying an army, was it?

Her words left him with questions.

Such feelings were lost to him. He'd simply assumed the position of command, as was so common as of late. Was he supposed to want someone to help? Was it normal to reach out for a parental figure when things fell apart? He supposed it was, though the lack of any significant figure of that sort in his own life had grown him into a rather independent young man. Even still, might that be part of the reason why he could not relate to these children?

Though he had no answers, Cedric decided that he disliked the questions.

"Makes sense," he agreed, asking as if he understood when he most certainly did not. "I have a lighter. It isn't much, but it'll do." Scrounging about in his pack was not a painless endeavor. Mindful of present company, he kept any pained noises to himself, and made sure that he was facing away from Asha to hide his expression.

Eventually he found what he was looking for. "Groups like that usually don't move during the night, especially after an operation as big as that. They'll enjoy their spoils for the night; bad for them, but good for us." He frowned as he turned about, a simple black firestarter in his hands. "I don't mean to sound callous."

Trusting Asha with the children, Cedric marched toward the lip of the cave. "If we start a fire deeper within, they won't be able to see the light. I'll find some wood."

Without awaiting a reply, Cedric marched off into the wastes. Around fifteen minutes later, he would return with an armful of dried lumber.

[member="Asha Hex"]
His cheek-filled words, and easy smile, were readily welcome. It had been so very long since she was able to feel at some level of ease, since the presence of another had comforted her, since she had allowed herself in turn to smile. To truly smile. While the situation here was dire, it was not quite impending doom from a Sith tier. These were foolish, though admittedly dangerous, fiends. They did not directly effect her.

Perhaps his age had something to do with it. He was not an adult, though he held himself as one in a high position might. The way he had handled the situation, and the aftermath, spoke to at least a military background if nothing else. Everyone Asha ever spoke to was significantly older, no longer in their teens.

It would be odd going back to a life without youthful optimism.

Once again he proved himself more readily prepared than she was, producing a firestarter from his pack. Perhaps it was time that Asha sorted herself out some new belongings, she had been gone from Aellin's grasp for several months now and could not continue to use his methods as an excuse.

"It's not callous, it's the truth, though I thank you for waiting until the children were asleep before mentioning it."

Even the lad who had sat to watch the horizon was sound asleep, his head against the wall of the cave. She should probably move him further into the cave before the chill of night set in.

When Cedric left she knew what to do. Standing, though it severely pained her to do so, she set about painstakingly moving each child without waking them. She had been wearing several layers on top, and took off each until just her undershirt remained to create makeshift pillows. There was little she could do to keep off the cold until he returned and lit a fire.

There wasn't enough for each child of course, it wasn't as if she wore countless pieces of clothes. The pair she had believed to be siblings shared her jacket, her shirt, and the tshirt which had been beneath it, to the older children. That left the youngest without. She was light though, insanely so, which made Asha more than okay with holding her close. She had the worst injury, at any rate, best she not risk her hitting her head again.

[member="Cedric Grayson"]
Solitude offered Cedric a chance to confront his own thoughts. They extended beyond the current situation; solutions for the problems facing both himself and Asha had been plotted away. If the raiders came, then they could deal with them accordingly. Though wounded, he yet carried his father's blade, and the energies of the ethereal realm came and went at his every whim. No, the reality he was confronted with was more of an abstract thing.

He had hesitated. Did that make him a bad leader? A bad Jedi? Could he even qualify as the latter given the brief amount of training he had received? Was it something he even cared to pursue? The identity of the Jedi did not fit well with his current position.

The youth's brow furrowed as such thoughts thundered through his mind.

The internal conflict was one fought in utter silence during the entirety of his solitude. It was only when he had returned to the cave that such malignant musings were banished from his mind, replaced with a mild curiosity as to his companions. He felt a natural compulsion to give the children...well, something. Perhaps it was simply a parental reaction, or maybe it was true compassion: he decided it did not matter. With a quiet sigh, he shrugged off his cloak, drawing it over the children as another layer of warmth. His undershirt would do him fine.

In silence, he settled down alongside Asha and the child he carried close to her chest. The fire he lit was a weak one, but such was required given their current situation. They could not afford to indulge.

"Did any of them tell you their names?" He asked quietly, his gaze drifting over to Asha. He took little note over her lack of clothing, marking it away as that same parental response the children had ushered from him. "It'll be good to know. We've got a few days together ahead of us," he continued, pale hands outstretched toward the crackling flames.

Asha had not hesitated to help these folk. Was she a better person than he was?


"I assume everything is callous to someone. Comes with the promise of politics, unfortunately."

[member="Asha Hex"]
In the silence which followed, Asha closed her eyes and leaned her head back against the rocky cave wall. She was so ridiculously exhausted, and now that the threat seemed to have waned and her muscles had relaxed she felt every ache and pain.

She would need to tend to it, as soon as she was able. As soon as she could put the youngest down. But she refused to do so right now, the child was clinging to her and she could not risk inciting nightmares by removing that comfort.

Cedric finally returned. Something she was grateful for, given that he could just as easily have left them there. He had no connection to them. Nobody would ever know. But he did return, and when she heard his feet in the cave her eyes opened. He stood there with firewood, and after setting it down he removed his cloak and settled it over the group of children. To that Asha smiled.

The fire which was shortly lit was a welcome warmth. One of the children stirred, staring over the fire at them... And then turned to nestle down into the cloak. No nightmares yet. But it could end up being a very long night.

"No names" she whispered, after he had settled beside her, eyes shifting from him to the child in her arms. "They didn't say a word on the way over here, at all really. Just wanted to sleep."

Part of her worried about the girl in her arms. Should she be asleep? What if she was concussed?

The girl blinked, before reaching over to her backpack and pulling out a small glass ampule that she kept for an emergency. It had been so long since she'd put it there, just after escaping Aellin, that she had quite forgotten about it. A sterile needle accompanied it, and without saying a word she set the tip of the needle inside and pulled the clear liquid into the syringe. After tapping the air bubbles out, and releasing a tiny amount of the medication to the ground at her side to get the right amount, lowered the needle to the child's arm and found a vein.

"Antishock" she mumbled, to the man. Hoping to clear up any confusion. "It will cease any effects of concussion, she hit her head... I don't want to risk it."

She set the needle back into her pack, inside a pocket that was zipped closed after. She couldn't just leave it here in the cave, after all. The ampule remained about half full, so she sealed it up and replaced it to her pack too.

"Tomorrow we can work on introductions, and sort out tasks for the journey. The two of us can't manage this without a little help from the older children. We need to find a clean source of water in the morning, then get the hell out of dodge."

[member="Cedric Grayson"]
The flames flickered in the youth's eyes. Circles of stormy gray were cast in violent orange; a distortion of color that fit his internal mood rather aptly. In silence, he observed the children. He lacked the medical acumen to provide them with any kind of meaningful treatment, but perhaps he could put his skills with battle meditation to work. If nothing else, he might be able to reassure the children that all would be well. That, of course, was a lie. It was quite likely they were all orphans at this point.

Still, it paid to be positive.

"We'll see which ones still talk after tonight. It's common for children to lose their tongues in situations like this," Cedric pointed out as he pressed his palms closer to the fire. A few more inches and his skin might have caught alight; such was his desire for proper heat.

"Good plan," he mumbled in agreement as Asha applied the anti-shock. He had surmised that such injuries might prove to be common among the children, though he'd chosen not to voice it. If they made it through the night without a death then it would truly be a miracle.

"I don't know the area well. I was a...tourist of sorts," his brow furrowed. "I have a map though. We can check it for a proper source of water, fill whatever we have, and head toward the next town. If we're careful, we should be able to make it unhindered."

He offered her a slight smile, though it was brimming with warmth.

"Do you have younger siblings?" he asked, indicating the girl she held in her arms. "Or children, I don't know. You seem to know what you're doing. I've got no idea myself."

[member="Asha Hex"]
She gave a slight nod of her head and watched as he moved his palms closer to the fire. Watching the crackling sticks she could not help but be reminded of the girl-on-fire that Sargon had taken an interest in, and Asha could not help but grimly wonder if Jyn could still be burned by outside means... Not that it mattered, she'd likely never see the woman again anyway.

"Understandable, but even if only one talks they seemed to have been together. Perhaps one can speak for all." That would make sense, unless they had been lured together by the slavers... In which case, they would simply have to be patient and wait for the younglings to come around.

"I don't know the area at all" she confessed, "Never been here in my life, I was just dropping in to refuel and restock. Force knows what's become of my ship." Hopefully nothing. It was away from the town, after all. She glanced over the fire, noting that little Azrael, her ginger furball, was curled up there basking in the glow of the fire. Poor baby hadn't had to do quite so much walking before, maybe she could find a way to carry him in her pack.

"A map is useful, I have at least one canister. When dawn comes we can see what supplies we actually have between us. The kids don't look like they have much, but the older boy has a pack so... Who knows." Likely full of school supplies or something of the sort, but it was worth a check regardless.

At the last question she shook her head.

"Not that I know of, no siblings" If only she knew the truth on how many little Hexes were running around... "And definitely no children. I just remember how things were with my Papa and I. He was patient, caring, took the time to soothe every ache and pain no matter how small, and then set me back on my feet and took my mind off it. He was mother and father, tough love and gentle love." She bit her lower lip and turned her head away to stare into the black.

So much had changed though.

"And I've been in their situation, worse. Torn away from all I've known, injured, lost, without hope. I'd have given anything for someone else to be there with me, even if all they could do was watch over me and provide a little comfort." Sometimes it wasn't big, heroic actions that made a difference, after all.

[member="Cedric Grayson"]
He should have been able to empathize, but the youth was finding a surprising amount of trouble in doing so. He listened to Asha in respectful silence, his gaze never wavering from the redheaded girl. He could tell that such things troubled her, yet he had no experiences to compare hers too. His father had not been very present as he'd gotten older, and even when he was around it was only to check on progress. Nor had he gone through any great trials or suffered greatly, aside from military losses, but those were impersonal.

He always knew that he would win the battle in the end.

"My old man was a political figure," his gaze shifted to the ball of fur that was Asha's companion. A brow was raised, the curiosity obvious, but the question as to the creature's origin was not asked. Instead, he continued on about family. "He wasn't around after I turned ten. There was a war to fight. He ended up dying fighting it. So did mom," Cedric lifted his shoulders in a slight shrug. Such things no longer bothered the young man. He'd come to terms with his parents' actions and their fate sometime ago.

They were decisions he would not repeat.

"I was raised on Ession. My family is...notable there," his brow furrowed. Perhaps he would tell her of his position at a later date, but not now. "Never really had any troubles though, not until recently. That war that I mentioned hasn't ended."

He paused, his attentions lingering on Asha once more. "What happened to you?" He asked, with no sense of crossing any lines. Cedric was an open book, and he recognized that thinking all others should be the same was a character flaw of his.

[member="Asha Hex"]
As he spoke, Asha found her frown deepening. Her gaze focused intensely on the short flames, right fingers gingerly reaching out toward them for further warmth. It was cold, especially given that most of her clothes were strewn across the cave for a child to sleep atop. She didn't regret it for a second.

"I'm sorry to hear about your parents..."

Nobody deserved losing their family, especially not at so young an age. Asha had never known her mother, she never asked questions, didn't care. Jericho had always done a good enough job for both. But losing him? That had been the worst experience of her existence, even worse than the events which drove her to be separated from him. Aellin could've done a thousand times worse than he did, and her greatest regret would have been never seeing her Papa again.

But she had seen him. Just not in the best of circumstances. She could only hope that such would change in the future.

"War..." she clenched the fist which had neared the fire and practically scowled. "I've visited more worlds in this Galaxy than I've right to, and war has touched almost all of them in some way. Destroyed cities, mass graves, children without ..." she stopped, and glanced around at the younglings in here. "It's not right. The people who suffer the most didn't sign up for it."

A small exhale, before she shook her head. "Forgive me. After so long of seeing it, it's tiring."

When the attention turned to her though, Asha turned ever so slightly from the fire, from him too, and remained silent for a while, battling internally with whether or not to speak. After all, Aellin could be listening right now... The hand which wasn't holding the child lifted to her neck, index finger running along the thin metal band.

"Nothing that can't be resolved" she said, though she doubted that it could be in truth. His claws had dug deep within her, deep enough that the mere thought of speaking out made it feel as though the metal was burning and his eyes were boring holes into the back of her head. "Let's just say I became unwillingly estranged from the life I knew." Vague enough for you, fiend? She had no doubt that she had committed acts that would swiftly bring about Aellin's wrath if he ever forced her back to the Graveyard again. For now... For now she would tow the line.

[member="Cedric Grayson"]

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